The Foxes welcome Mark Hughes’s Stoke City side to the King Power stadium on Saturday with their January going pretty much to plan so far. Since the Boxing day loss to Spurs, Leicester have picked seven points from nine available as well as a third round FA Cup win and the players have rallied around boss Nigel Pearson and given him some breathing room to manoeuvre into position for a Premier League survival tilt.
Back in September, the Foxes snatched all three points at the Britannia Stadium thanks to Leo Ulloa’s strike and they will be looking to continue their recent upturn in form, which has safely brought them back into contention for survival, albeit still bottom of the table.
The recent plaudits have been shared between various players, with the defence particularly looking stronger with Polish International Marcin Wasilewski, now firmly settled in alongside Wes Morgan. The introduction of Danny Simpson at right-back has also given the foxes a more defensive feel and it looks like the more attacking Ritchie De Laet will have to settle for a spot on the bench for the time being.
The return of midfielder Dean Hammond can also be accredited with Leicester’s good form. The former Southampton man found chances hard to come by last season but has looked decidedly more comfortable in the Premier League and has formed a key partnership with Matty James over the last few games. That partnership will be broken for the Stoke game after James’s red card and so look for Andy King to come into the side and stake a claim for a place.
Foxes fans have been clamouring for the inclusion of exciting Frenchman Anthony Knockaert and his man of the match performance against Villa has been a welcome boost for the forgotten man. Nigel Pearson has been loathe to use him this season as he can be prone to mistakes but with Mahrez still away at the African Nations Cup, the tricky winger looks to be taking his chance.
The arrival of record signing Andrej Krameric has now been completed and the Croatian should go straight into the squad for the visit of Stoke. Whether he will start from the off, remains to be seen but Leicester fans will be excited to see just how good the new man is. With this in mind expect both Nugent and Ulloa to continue up front for this weekend’s action but don’t be surprised for Leicester boss Nigel Pearson to give the record signing a short run out.
The deal for Shaun Maloney from Wigan seems to have collapsed over personal terms but it does indicate that the Foxes hierocracy are not finished with their spending just yet. No doubt if a player become available, expect Nigel to be backed by the Thai owners.
Stoke are coming off a disappointing defeat against Arsenal and Mark Hughes will no doubt have his side chomping at the bit to get back on track and with Peter Crouch in the side, there is always a chance for them to score goals.
Mark Hughes has worked hard to change the perceived style of play, Stoke were said to play under Tony Pulis and they do look a better footballing side since Hughes’s arrival. Jonathan Walters is an underrated performer for the Potters and puts in the graft, which the Leicester midfield will need to counter.
Stoke’s Steven N’Zonzi was hauled off at half-time at the Emirates last week but the exciting midfielder does offer a bit of flair for Mark Hughes side, and Leicester will need to be weary with his surging runs.
Prediction – Leicester are on a good run of form and could move out of the bottom three with a win and that incentive along with Stoke’s dismal performance in their last match point to a Leicester win. 2-0 to Leicester with Ulloa and King to sneak the goals.