Claudio Ranieri and Leicester made history in Europe during the week, but for now the Italian and his team will be desperate to correct their stuttering domestic form which has seen them slip to 14th and a mere two points above the relegation zone.
Saturday’s opponents, Middlesbrough, are only a point worse off, and this is likely to be a big one therefore if the Foxes are to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three. Aitor Karanka and Middlesbrough meanwhile, will also view this clash with an out of form Leicester as an opportunity, and will be no pushovers against the struggling champions in their visit to the King Power.
Despite their impressive run of form in the Champions League, Leicester’s domestic form must to be addressed. They have one win from their last five games, which also include three defeats, and a total of just three wins from their opening 12 Premier League matches. The ‘Boro have been favourable opposition for the Foxes in years gone by however, with the hosts unbeaten in their last 12 in all competitions against the Teesiders, keeping a clean sheet in five out of the last six of them.
Leicester do also have a strong home record which will give them some encouragement, having only lost once in the league and twice in all competitions at the King Power this season. The ‘Boro however have a penchant for getting results on the road, and having drawn their last three away from the Riverside, including games against Manchester City and Arsenal, there are enough positives to suggest that there is an opportunity in this game.
With Danny Drinkwater and Nampalys Mendy both missing, Andy King and Daniel Amartey look set to start as the centre-midfield pair in Leicester’s match-up with Middlesbrough. With goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel not yet near a return Ron-Robert Zieler will continue in goal, whilst Luis Hernandez could come in at right-back for Danny Simpson, who featured in the Champions League win over Club Brugge during the week.
With Islam Slimani a doubt, Shinji Okazaki should keep his place up front alongside Jamie Vardy, whilst Claudio Ranieri has hinted towards resting Riyad Mahrez given his stuttering form domestically this season, which may open the door for Demarai Gray or Jeffrey Schlupp to come in.
With George Friend likely to be spending a spell on the sidelines, Nsue is favourite to come in at right-back with Antonio Barragan going out to the left after Fabio failed to grasp his opportunity in the role last time out. Karanka has been deploying a 4-5-1 against stronger sides at home, but in light of Leicester’s form this may see the Spaniard approach this game looking for a victory, meaning potential to revert to a more attacking 4-2-3-1.
Leicester City predicted starting XI Middlesbrough predicted starting XI
Following an FA charge for violent conduct after an incident involving himself and Watford’s Valon Behrami, Danny Drinkwater starts the first of a three-match ban against the ‘Boro. Kasper Schmeichel remains out with a broken hand, whilst Nampalys Mendy remains out. Matty James and record-signing Islam Slimani are both rated doubtful.
For Middlesbrough, left-back George Friend is a notable absentee with a knee problem. whilst James Husband is a doubt for the trip south to Leicestershire.
Despite adding another Champions League chapter to their fairytale rise in midweek, Claudio Ranieri and Leicester must address their indifferent league form. They are only two points above the bottom three having only recorded three wins from their opening 12 matches. It is undeniably relegation form and has proven a stuttering start to the defence of their title.
Middlesbrough themselves have only won two games in the league this season, but they are capable of remaining well regimented at the back, particularly away from home. They have only conceded more than one goal in a league match on just three occasions this season and four of their five Premier League losses have been settled by just one goal. Games involving the ‘Boro have actually yielded the fewest amount of goals in the league, with just 23.
Of the teams out of the top five currently who have already faced Middlesbrough, Tottenham are the only team to net more than once against them, and only they have drawn more games in the league than Middlesbrough. To avoid the drop however, Karanka’s side will be under pressure to start turning those draws into winning margins.
Leicester haven’t been favourable opposition for Karanka’s side in recent years however, and they have failed to score in five of their last six away matches at the King Power. With the form of both in mind, it looks nailed on for a low scoring defeat for Karanka’s side. Leicester can also take heart from their decent home record, despite having to contend with a depleted side. Our call is Leicester 1-0 Middlesbrough.
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