Premier League 17/18 Week 37: Leicester City vs West Ham United – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The fragile Foxes look to avoid another hammering when they welcome West Ham to the King Power
15:00 BST, Saturday 5th May, King Power Stadium (Leicester, England)
Two clubs who expected so much more from their seasons find themselves limping badly towards the finishing line. Leicester were not expected to challenge for a 2nd Premier League title in 3 years but they were expected to be pushing close to the top clubs this year. Their current position of 9th in the table may not seem like a drastically poor return, however, they are 10 points behind 7th placed Burnley and European qualification and have lost 3 of their last 4 games with only a poor goal-less draw against relegation-threatened Southampton to provide any relief.
The Hammers may be an established force in the top-flight but they have been struggling at the wrong end of the table for 2 successive seasons now. Sitting in 15th place with 35 points and with 3 games remaining offers West Ham some relative safety, however, they can’t sit back and wait for summer just yet. The 6 defeats from their previous 10 games has shown an alarming drop in form for David Moyes’ side, a trend which needs to be broken too if their ambitions are to remain intact.
Last Time Out
Crystal Palace 5-0 Leicester City (Premier League)
The Foxes were given a given a lesson by a Palace side who not only wanted to win more than them, they also proved to be better in each area of the pitch too. When the first goal broke the deadlock in the 17th minute, there was already an air of inevitability surrounding this match. Wilfried Zaha’s opener was a fine team goal and it was in stark contrast to the unity shown in Leicester’s performance.
Puel’s bravery in trusting his younger players continues to let him down, both Kelechi Iheanacho and Hamza Choudhury finding themselves withdrawn at half-time after ineffective games. The 2-0 score at the interval was put beyond reach 5 minutes into the second half when Marc Albrighton was shown a red card while Wilfred Ndidi picked up an injury straight after. The final 3 goals for the Eagles all arrived in the last 10 minutes of a game which everyone involved with Leicester will be keen to erase from their memory.
West Ham United 1-4 Manchester City (Premier League)
The Hammers suffered their 2nd successive defeat by a 4-1 scoreline in a game they weren’t expected to win and rarely looked like troubling that notion. West ham were their own worst enemies in the opening stages, helping the new league champions to their first 2 goals.
Patrice Evra unwittingly deflected Leroy Sané’s shot past his own keeper in the 13th minute while defensive errors culminated in Pablo Zabaleta scoring an own-goal within half an hour. Aaron Cresswell was the one bright spark in the team for David Moyes and he reduced the deficit just before the interval to provide a small element of hope in the dressing room.
This quickly evaporated after the break, however, with City taking full control in the game. Their slick football produced 2 more goals within 20 minutes of the restart and ended this game as a contest.
Leicester City Lineup
Kasper Schmeichel and Shinji Okazaki are absent from either end of the team with respective ankle injuries but it’s in midfield where Puel faces the biggest problem. Daniel Amartey (hamstring) Matty James (Achilles) Wilfred Ndidi (hamstring) and Vicente Iborra (hamstring) are joined by Marc Albrighton who is suspended following his red car last weekend.
West Ham United Lineup
Joe Hart could make a return to the starting lineup after his ineligibility to play last weekend, although Winston Reid (knee) Sam Byram (ankle) James Collins (hamstring) Pedro Obiang (knee) and Michail Antonio (hamstring) all remain unavailable for the Hammers through injury.
Key Battle: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City) vs Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United)
Following the Facebook hack which faked an announcement of Mahrez’s retirement from football at the start of March, the Algerian winger was quick to disprove this with a goal against West Brom just 3 days later. Since then, the winger may not have hung up his boots but he’s not been directly involved in a goal either. With a move away from Leicester looking inevitable this summer, Mahrez’s lasting impression is in danger of being that of a player downing tools.
While he’s not renowned for excelling in his defensive duties, a return to form in attack during the final matches of this season will leave a slightly sweeter taste behind when he eventually resigns his position with the Foxes.
Whether playing on the left of a back-three or as a wing-back with more license to go forward, Cresswell has largely impressed for the Hammers despite their defensive vulnerabilities this season. His free-kick against Manchester City last weekend may have been his first goal in two seasons, however, he has amassed 7 assists in the league during this campaign. While he runs a tight ship at the back, he could be afforded more joy in attack if he’s allowed to get forward down the left wing again for the Hammers.
Claude Puel may have only been in charge for 18 games at the Midlands club, yet his position is already looking to be in jeopardy. Having received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Leicester board this week, the bad results and fan criticism has clearly not gone unnoticed by the Foxes hierarchy.
The task he has undertaken should shoulder much of the blame for these results though. In trying to transform how Leicester play, he is stuck in a major transitional period. What compounds this is that the new style is not being widely embraced by the King Power crowd. After being treated to fast and exciting counter-attacking football, something which is tickling the taste buds of supporters across the country this season more than normal, the passing style being adapted seems dull in comparison.
It remains to be seen if Puel can pull this task off to improve results but if so, it will be interesting to find out if this brand of football is in-front or behind the curve in football’s cyclic trends.
The image of David Moyes cutting a dejected figure on the sidelines, on the training ground, in his car, or in every photo of him, have become a norm over the last few seasons.
The final 6 months of this season saw him get what was widely considered to be his “one last chance to prove himself” with a short-term contract in East London. It’s also seen him cast aside the passive image which has become so common. The passion has slowly drifted back behind his eyes, clearing the mist of malaise and acceptance.
An angry rebuttal of Declan Rice’s calamitous indecision last week followed by an authoritative response this week to Andy Carroll’s show of indignation. If Moyes can get his players to show as much pride and spirit on the pitch as he’s rekindling, West Ham should see an improvement sweep over their remaining results.
Prediction: Leicester City 1-1 West Ham United
With both teams needing to avoid defeat more than they need to win, this could very well prove to be an unadventurous game. The Hammers still require points to keep them in the division next season, however, a draw could be enough to keep them on track for this target and it could also prove to be the final result.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/Tony O’Brien)