FA Cup: Leicester City vs Sheffield United – Lineups, Preview and Prediction

Leicester City take on Championship side Sheffield United in one of Friday night’s FA Cup kick-offs to see who will advance to the quarter finals.

George Howson by George Howson

(Photo credit: Ungry Young Man)

19:45 GMT, Friday 16th February, King Power Stadium (Leicester, England)

This Friday evening, Leicester City host Sheffield United at the King Power Stadium in the first fixture of an intriguing fifth round of the FA Cup. 

Leicester City are in the advantageous position of being safe from relegation but also too far back from the top six to qualify for the Europa League via that route. 

However, the FA Cup offers the Foxes an excellent opportunity, especially after being drawn against Championship opposition at home. 

Having opened their domestic season with an impressive run of form, Chris Wilder’s side have dropped in recent months and currently find themselves in eighth place in the Championship, three points off Bristol City who occupy the final space in the playoff spots.

Despite being in different leagues, the two sides met previously this season in the EFL Cup, with the Foxes running out 4-1 victors at Bramall Lane in action-packed contest, so this has all the makings of a great cup-tie.

Last Time Out

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City (Premier League)

Leicester City were thumped 5-1 by champions-elect Manchester City in Saturday’s late Premier League kick-off. 

Raheem Sterling scored his 20th goal of a sensational season before Jamie Vardy equalised against the run of play. 

The contest remained a tie going into half-time but Sergio Aguero had one of the best 45 minutes in recent memory, putting a scarcely-believable four goals past Schmeichel in the second half. 

This included an absolute thunderbolt of a strike from outside of the box which flashed past the Foxes’ goalkeeper before crashing in off the bar.

Sheffield United 2-1 Leeds United (Championship)

In the Championship’s early kick-off, Sheffield United got their first home league win of 2018 by overcoming a Leeds United side who are continuing their slide down the table. 

Billy Sharp’s unbelievable volley put the home side into the lead within the first few minutes and the Blades were well on top going into the break. 

However, the Whites came out swinging in the second, with Pierre-Michel Lasogga equalising from a header. 

But cometh the hour, cometh the man, as club captain, Sharp scored a brace late on thanks to a penalty won by John Fleck to become just the third man this century to score 200 English league goals.

Leicester City Line-up

Claude Puel has an abundance of options available to him for this fifth round tie. 

Kasper Schmeichel will likely be rested in favour of cup goalkeeper, Ben Hamer, who has proven himself to be more than adept at the top level. 

Expect Puel to go with a 3-at-the-back formation, as it favours attacking play styles and will match their opponents’ line-up. Harry Maguire, the rock of the Foxes’ defence will be partnered by Benalouane and Dragovic in the centre of defence. Danny Simpson and Ben Chilwell should also get chances to start in this cup match. 

Adrien Silva and Matty James will be in the midfield alongside Wilfred Ndidi, who, Puel will be hoping, will break up the away sides’ play. 

The danger men, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho will feature up front.

Sheffield United Line-up

For Chris Wilder, the situation is somewhat simpler: Simon Moore is still suspended and, despite Jamal Blackman playing all 90 minutes against Leeds, he was clearly carrying a knock so won’t be risked. That means that third choice stopper, Jake Eastwood, will get another runout against Leicester between the sticks. 

Leon Clarke has been out-of-form so Clayton Donaldson, somewhat of an away day specialist, should get a start up top with captain Billy Sharp. 

John Lundstram and Ryan Leonard should get runouts in midfield alongside John Fleck. 

With Tuesday’s match against QPR firmly on the horizon, Enda Stevens and Chris Basham could be rested in favour of Daniel Lafferty Jake Wright at the back. 

With Kieron Freeman still out injured, Wilder will have to play George Baldock at right wing-back, or possibly risk Basham in that position.

Key Battle: Jamie Vardy & Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) vs Richard Stearman & Jake Wright (Sheffield United)

How the Sheffield United defence deals with the pace of Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho will be crucial to the Blades keeping the scoresheet as clean as possible. 

The speed of the forwards was the key factor in the Bramall Lane blowout earlier in the season and it should be the case here too. 

Jack O’Connell will be a part of the aforementioned backline but Richard Stearman and Jake Wright will be the ones bearing the brunt of the Foxes’ strikers. 

Even if Sheffield United do hold out against this pairing, the likes of Demarai Gray and Fousseni Diabate could also cause the Red and White Wizards severe damage if they come off the bench.

Talking Points:

Harry Maguire versus his old side
It seems hard to believe now but Harry Maguire was playing for the Blades in League One only a handful of seasons ago. 

A move to Hull City initially didn’t suit the domineering centre-back as he struggled to make into the side,  but an injury crisis at the KC gave Maguire the opportunity he needed to impress and he grabbed it with both hands. 

After the Tigers’ relegation, a £15 million move to Leicester beckoned and an England call-up soon followed: something that the Sheffield United faithful predicted when he first burst into the first team back in 2011. 

One of the best defenders to come out of Sheffield United’s academy in recent years, Maguire finds himself at the top of a list including the likes of Matt Lowton, Kyle Naughton, Phil Jagielka and even Kyle Walker. 

He’ll be a hard man to get past on Friday and will be a threat to the Sheffield United back line too.

Vardy itching to play

Maguire likely has fond memories of playing for Sheffield United but one man who has nothing positive to say about the Blades is Jamie Vardy. 

Vardy grew up a Sheffield Wednesday supporter and joined the Owls’ academy as a youngster before being booted out at the age of 16. 

We all know about his incredible rise up the leagues after that but, despite being shown the door by Wednesday, he still has an affinity towards the club. The opposite is true of Sheffield United and it’s hardly a surprise given that the two sets of fan bases don’t get on.

Indeed, when the sides met back in August, Vardy was reportedly desperate to start, despite only just coming back from injury. 

With a quarterfinal on the horizon, Puel is unlikely to risk fielding a weakened side, so Vardy may well be in contention to play. 

Another cup run for the Blades?

Sheffield United are no strangers to runs deep into the latter stages of either cup competition, having won the FA Cup four times in their history. 

The Blades have most recently made sensational cup runs in 2014 when they made it to a Wembley Semi-Final and in also made the semis of the League cup a year later. 

Since then, though, they have rarely threatened to make another appearance this far in either cup, but Saturday could change that. 

Wins against Ipswich and Preston in rounds three and four, respectively, were impressive but a Premier League side away from home will be a completely different level of challenge. 

Prediction: Leicester City 3-0 Sheffield United

The pace of The Foxes’ attack will prove too much for Sheffield United, who will inevitably tire and start making mistakes, especially as the game goes on. 

Wilder’s side do have a chance of bringing this back to Bramall Lane for a replay but, with the playoff places still reachable, it’s something that the manager would rather avoid.

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George Howson

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