Leicester. It’s must-win, this. For Leicester.
Or so says their manager, the former City boss Nigel Pearson. He’s probably right. Four points adrift at the bottom, seven from safety and nine behind the Tigers, the window for them to stage a remarkable recovery is almost shut. By 5pm today, it could be closed completely.
That’s the incentive for City, who would be able to rest just a little more easily tonight knowing that one of the three relegation slots is effectively filled, that that there are only two remaining and that we could enter the 30s, probably just a win and a couple of draws from safety.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But City’s disagreeable habit of coughing up cheap 1-0 defeats in games such as this all season long reminds us it won’t be. Leicester, knowing anything but victory is useless, will be fighting for their lives, and in Pearson that have a wily, obdurate manager who will not be accepting defeat yet.
As well as the division’s lowest points tally, Leicester also have the worst home record in the Premier League; that outstanding 5-3 victory over Manchester United must feel quite distant now, and has been added to just once at the King Power Stadium. City’s away form is hardly stellar, with two wins from 14 and defeats in half of our fixtures on the road, but we’ve actually gained more points on the road than Leicester have in Leicester.
What this is all means for this afternoon is anyone’s guess. Likewise, the two managers’ approaches are an interesting mystery. Will Steve Bruce send his side out for the kill, or will we sit back and hand the initiative to a team in need (see Burnley away)? Will Pearson go all out for victory, or will he be more circumspect, hoping his side can play their way into the game and snatch a narrow victory?
City have no new injury worries, which makes in a change in this ill-starred season. Mohamed Diamé is not quite fit enough to be in contention, though it’s close. Leicester will welcome back Kasper Schmeichel, but see Knockaert and Hammond unavailable.
City have won twice in Leicester since regular resumption of regular meetings nine years ago, a 1-0 win in 2006 and 2-0 win on the way to promotion in 2008. Historically, we actually have the edge over today’s hosts, with 28 wins to 26, though our last two visits to this part of the world have been defeats. Home advantage is enough for Leicester to be the bookies’ favourites, available at 6/5. City are as long as 3/1, while a draw that does little for City and even less for Leicester is 12/5. C’mon City.