Location: King Power Stadium, Leicestershire, England
Kick-off time: 17:30 PM GMT, 12:30 PM Eastern, 09:30 AM Pacific
“They’re not just beating the richest club in the land, they’re ripping them up on their own turf! Why shouldn’t they be champions?” - Peter Drury
It was a famous quote for Leicester fans that came last season after Riyad Mahrez put the Foxes up 2-0 at the Etihad over reigning champions Manchester City. Now, the club are sinking into a relegation battle 14 matches into the season wondering, “Where did it all go wrong?”
Despite advancing to the Champions League Round of 16 as winners of Group G, the Foxes made it look like they don’t belong in the competition at all after getting fleeced 5-0 away to Porto in their final match of the group stages. Sure, Leicester had already advanced. Sporadic starters such as Demarai Gray, Ahmed Musa and Marcin Wasilewski could opt in for the likes of Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Robert Huth so the club could focus on the tire fire that is the Premier League. But a run out for some less-played players seemed to do a lot more damage than anticipated to a side whose confidence keeps taking blow after blow as reigning English champions.
They’ll be given more than they can handle at the moment in Manchester City, who sit rightfully in the top-four of the table despite losing their last match in an aggressive 3-1 affair against Chelsea. It led to Sergio Aguero picking up a four-match suspension for a nasty tackle on David Luiz, who easily could’ve left Stamford Bridge with a broken leg that day. Raheem Sterling is expected to return from injury and fill the void in attack in front of Kelechi Iheanacho, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in the midfield.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has stuck to his guns all season, but even mentioned in a recent press conference that the Foxes need to start stringing together some results to get away from the bottom three. A difficult City match comes after what were Leicester’s easiest run of fixtures this season against West Brom, Watford, Middlesbrough and Sunderland, producing a grand total of one point. Following Saturday, a midweek match away to Bournemouth and then to Stoke greet the Foxes.
The counter-attacking 4-4-2 was fun while it lasted, but teams have figured out Leicester’s game. Fast balls from the midfield and flanks to Vardy up front have been stamped out, demonstrated clearly in Vardy’s lack of a goal in his past 16 matches. A vulnerable midfield has done nothing on both sides of the pitch, and will again be missing Danny Drinkwater as he serves his last match of a three-game suspension. The return of Nampalys Mendy was welcomed with cheers, but he failed to leave any mark in Leicester’s loss to Porto on Wednesday.
Things need changing, but we’ve been saying that for weeks to no avail. It’s business time for the Foxes, who will have 11 fixtures to make something happen before playing one of Paris Saint-Germain, Benfica, Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid, or Sevilla in the last-16 of the Champions League. Yeeeesh.
Replace Brad Pitt with Ranieri, and hopefully you got this reaction from the Italian this past week at training:
Godspeed, boys. It’s an uphill battle out of the bottom.