Premier League 17/18 Week 33: Leicester City vs Newcastle United – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Magpies will look to steal three valuable points from the Foxes den as both teams bid for a third consecutive victory
15:00 BST, Saturday 7th April, King Power Stadium (Leicester, England)
Unbeaten in four and with successive victories to bolster their position, Claude Puel has manoeuvred the Foxes out of a tricky run which saw them record only 2 wins from 10. With the enticing prize of Europa League football next season still very much a real possibility, Leicester will have plenty of reason to seek a third consecutive victory when the Magpies pay them a visit this weekend. With wins from each of their previous 5 meetings and clean sheets kept in the last 4 of those, the Foxes will be confident of picking up another 3 points on Saturday.
For Rafael Benítez, it’s been a long, hard season but the fruits of his labour are showing. A team also heading into this match with two successive victories, Newcastle have only been defeated twice in their 10 league games this year. With Premier League safety now in plain sight, a win in this fixture could even see them lifted into the top half of the table if other results go their way.
Last Time Out
Brighton 0-2 Leicester City (Premier League)
A frantic final 10 minutes saw all the action as a ten-man Leicester overcame the Seagulls to bounce back from their FA Cup disappointment. Kasper Schmeichel had earlier kept the Foxes in the game who were lacklustre for much of the first hour.
A penalty awarded to Brighton in the 77th minute appeared to signal real problems for the visitors only for Schmeichel to once again bale-out his team with a good save to deny Glenn Murray from the spot.
Having been wasteful in possession and creating little for long spells, Vicente Iborra then opened the scoring with a solid header in the 83rd minute. Wilfred Ndidi was equally ineffectual and having conceded the penalty, found himself dismissed only three minutes after his side took the lead. Leicester not only proved able to hold on to their advantage, a quick counter deep in injury time saw Jamie Vardy double the score to complete a successful raid on the South coast for the Foxes.
Newcastle United 1-0 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)
The Magpies also left it late to clinch all three points in what was a quietly determined performance from the Toon to win a third successive home fixture. With both teams still fearful of relegation before kick-off, this was a match played out with Huddersfield content to claim an away-draw.
The home team were not only equally well organised, they also made much more adventurous forays forward, controlling the tempo of the match and carving out several good opportunities to score.
With Islam Slimani looking hungry and impressive after making a late substitute appearance for his club debut, the pressure will now mount on Dwight Gayle who should have opened the scoring on more than one occasion in this game.
Newcastle’s persistence remained composed and a series of half-chances eventually paid off with an 80th-minute strike from Ayoze Pérez. The result was no less than they deserved and is another mark of progress for a side who have been growing stronger throughout the early stages of 2018.
Leicester City Lineup
Daniel Amartey (hamstring) and Matty James (Achilles) are joined by Ndidi who serves the first game of a two-match suspension following his second dismissal this season. Among some expected changes for Leicester, Fousseni Diabate could find himself recalled to the starting lineup after impressing during his recent cameo appearances.
Newcastle United Lineup
Jesús Gámez has not made a miraculous recovery over the Easter period and will again miss out for Newcastle with Islam Slimani also unavailable despite just regaining his fitness due to facing his parent club. This is likely to lead Benitez to field an unchanged team from his previous two games.
Key Battle: Jamie Vardy (Leicester) vs Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle)
The home side will find themselves favourites to come out on top in this match and in Jamie Vardy they have a player capable of firing them to victory. The England striker looks assured of his place in England’s squad for this summer’s World Cup having hit form at just the right time. Having scored in 8 of his last 10 appearances in all competitions, the Leicester front-man is joint-fifth in the league’s scoring charts and will be hopefully of improving that before the end of the season.
It’s no surprise that the man who will stand in Vardy’s way this weekend has been recently linked with clubs such as Chelsea. The Newcastle captain has not only been the defensive lynch-pin in Benitez’s team, he’s also been an inspiring leader for the Magpies. It’s no coincidence that Newcastle’s drop in form at the end of 2017 came at a time Lascelles was out with injury or that his return to the team has seen them become a much harder side to break down, including picking up 3 clean sheets in their last 5 matches.
Another future star?
With Ndidi suspended, Daniel Amartey injured and Matty James now being ruled out for the rest of the season, Puel is left with a choice to make regarding who will play his defensive anchor in midfield.
There’s no shortage of midfield options for Leicester, however, with Adrien Silva and Vicente Iborra the obvious choices for the central area. As a fan of giving talented youngsters a chance to shine, Puel may be tempted to promote Hamza Choudhury into the senior squad after a series of impressive performances with the under-23 squad.
For a manager who has experimented with the team lineup and playing personnel in recent weeks, a change of system to accommodate all three midfielders is also a reasonable possibility, however, an appearance for Choudhury at some stage this weekend can probably be expected.
An obstacle overcome
With the average number of points needed to retain Premier League football over recent season’s being 36.6, Newcastle’s 35 points leaves them just short of the first significant landmark in their mission for survival.
Sitting 12th in the table and with 7 games yet to play, including a home game against bottom-placed West Brom, survival is looking an almost certainty for Benitez’s side.
This could well signal more stories in the coming weeks regarding a potential sale of the club. A major sticking point in the protracted negotiations with Amanda Staveley’s consortium earlier this season was believed to hinge around clauses regarding the team’s top-flight status come the end of this season. Once this is mathematically achieved, could this possibly revive her long-held interest and lead to a new round of offers for the club?
Prediction: Leicester City 1-2 Newcastle United
Ndidi has been one of the main reason’s for Leicester’s success this season and the Foxes could well struggle in midfield in his absence. With both Jonjo Shelvey and the reformed Mohamed Diamé impressing for Newcastle, they could well win this battle and with it, the match.