Premier League 17/18 Week 29: Leicester City vs Bournemouth- Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Foxes tackle the Cherries as both clubs look to reassert their credentials and place in the safety of mid-table anonymity
15:00 GMT, Saturday 3rd March, King Power Stadium (Leicester, England)
With only 2 wins from the last 11 league fixtures, Claude Puel’s mid-season recovery at Leicester has somewhat stumbled of late. This recent period has largely been held together by their home form, collecting 9 of their 10 points at the King Power Stadium where they are now unbeaten in their last eight games across all competitions.
Likewise, Eddie Howe’s have also had their season resurrected thanks to a good run of form displacing a poor start to the season. A run of 4 wins and 3 draws after Christmas propelled them into mid-table, however, they still find themselves only 5 points above the relegation zone. Having taken only a single point from their last two games which came against newly promoted sides, Puel will not be the only manager looking to put his club back on track with a win from this fixture.
Last Time Out
Leicester City 1-1 Stoke City (Premier League)
The Foxes blushes were spared as a Jack Butland own-goal gifted them a draw against the relegation-threatened Potters. Trailing the game to a fine strike from Xherdan Shaqiri, Marc Albrighton sent a fierce cross towards Butland from the byline on Leicester’s right wing, however, the Stoke keeper bundled the ball into the goal despite it being a good height to catch.
For much of the game Leicester had failed to spark into life and it was the visitors who were far the more lively and likely to score. While they tried to control play during the opening stages, they offered little threat to the Stoke goal. But while Stoke were energetic, the Leicester defence largely kept the Potters at arms-length, restricting them to only 6 shots on goal, 2 of which were on target. With Jamie Vardy left isolated and Demarai Gray again having a poor game, it was the attack which let Puel and the Leicester fans down during the Saturday lunchtime match.
Bournemouth 2-2 Newcastle United (Premier League)
The Cherries made a late comeback to salvage a draw but fell just short of delivering a knockout blow from their rope-a-dope performance. It was the away side who ran off with the match for the first 80 minutes, twice scoring through Dwight Gayle in the first half. Other than a penalty appeal from Ryan Fraser, Bournemouth failed to threaten the scoreboard with an usually lethargic display.
After Newcastle had missed several big chances in the second half to increase their advantage, it was Adam Smith who took to the field and changed the narrative with a stunning strike. The goal worked to both inspire the home side and put the visitors firmly on the back foot. As Bournemouth piled pressure onto the Magpies defence in the closing stages, it was ex-Newcastle midfielder Dan Gosling who scored the vital equaliser. There could also have been a late winner for the Cherries in the dying seconds of the game, however, it was still very much a point won rather than two lost for the South Coast club.
Shinji Okazaki is rated doubtful to start this weekend as he continues to recover from a knee injury, otherwise, Puel has a clean slate of health regarding his squad. With plenty of options in midfield to make changes, only a few alterations are likely from the team which faced Stoke.
Howe also has only one injury concern with Tyrone Mings still suffering a back complaint. With several options available to him, Howe too could opt for some consistency in his starting eleven this weekend.
Key Battle: Ben Chilwell (Leicester) vs Jordon Ibe (Bournemouth)
Of the younger players that Puel has tried to bleed into his current Leicester team, both Gray and Chilwell have recently been failing to deliver on their potential. While Chilwell has looked good supporting the attacking play, he needs to focus on tightening up the defensive aspects of his game. Having had a sustained run of games in the first-team, it’s now up to the player to prove he is worthy of keeping his newfound status.
Looking to pick his way past the Fox-cub will be Bournemouth’s second most expensive player. Jordon Ibe may have taken time to establish himself in the Cherries first team but he’s showing why Howe deemed him worthy of a relatively big price-tag. With goals still missing from his game, there’s plenty of room for improvement and players like Ryan Fraser and Junior Stanislas will push hard for his spot if he’s unable to continue his progression.
A time to play
Claude Puel has guided his new team well away from the relegation race and will now have one eye steadily trained on a 7th-placed finish which could provide a place in next season’s Europa League. While he won’t wish to put this position at any unnecessary risk, now is the perfect time for the French manager to experiment with his lineup and tactics.
With a host of creative options amongst his squad and almost two players for every position in his team, Puel can shape his team for next season. To do this while maintaining a run of positive results will be a challenge, especially considering their form has dropped a level recently, however, it could put the club in a much stronger position for next season. If they’re aiming to achieve a place in Europe, this will be beneficial for the Foxes.
In the build-up to this weekend’s match, Nathan Aké has spoken of his side’s need to begin games with much more intensity. Having been behind in each of the last three games during the half-time break, the slow start has become something of a regular occurrence for the Cherries.
The silver lining for Cherries fans is that they have been looking strong in the closing stages of their matches for much of the season now. While too many of the players looked lacking in fitness during the early stages of the campaign, they now look at their strongest towards the end of a match. Having scored 18 of their 33 goals in the final half hour of Premier League matches, there is at least no doubting the fitness levels of Howe’s squad.
Prediction: Leicester City 2-1 Bournemouth
This mid-table battle could produce an entertaining game or it could fizzle out under a blanket of snow. With both side’s having plenty of potential but little recent form to back up their claims, there’s likely to be little separating them at the final whistle. Leicester’s home form could just be the factor to tip the balance in their favour and leave Bournemouth looking back over their collective shoulder.