Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
One of the most intriguing games of the season so far brings together Manchester City and the team in second place in the Premier League. Normally, that formula in a December fixture means that a team has one last chance to stay in touch with runaway leaders City; one which they will usually see dashed within fifteen minutes of the first whistle. This weekend, however, it’s Pep and co.’s chance to reel Leicester a little closer – the Foxes start the weekend ten points behind leaders Liverpool, but far enough ahead of the defending champions to be sure of being second at Christmas.
If there is a good time to be playing Brendan Rodgers’ side this season, it’s now. After a run of nine consecutive wins, they drew last weekend at home to Norwich, and then a relatively strong Leicester side saw a 2-0 lead pegged back at Everton before progressing on penalties. With Manchester City having won comfortably at Arsenal last weekend, they are, in the short term, the men in form.
Manchester City vs Leicester City Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Leicester City
It is unarguable that Leicester City are where they are on merit – they sit in second place with the Premier League’s third highest goal total and lowest number of goals conceded. They have the best goal difference in the top flight, and its top-scoring player, and have lost just twice – half as many games as their opponents here (and both the sides who have beaten them have also beaten the Citizens). You could make an argument that they should have nothing to fear here, but there is always the sense that Man City have a galactic-level performance within them, and if they play as they can, they’re a good bet to win here.
Our recommended tip: Man City & BTTS
There is precisely no reason why Leicester should see this is a walk into the lions’ den. If they lose, they’ll still be ahead of their opponent at the end. There is definite vulnerability in the home defence, and the Foxes have plenty of players who could exploit it. And yet… Man City’s struggles this season, which include defeats at home by Wolves and an anaemic Manchester United, do not mean that they’re not favourites here. It’s a close call, and we’d expect Leicester to at least get a blow or two in themselves, but the hosts still have the edge here, and William Hill’s 7/5 odds on this outcome are good value.
If you want a mildly bizarre statistic, then here’s a belter: Leicester have played at least once against Manchester City in December every year since 2016 – and in the four games that that has entailed, they’ve never lost in 90 minutes. A 4-2 win at the King Power Stadium in the Premier League three years ago featured a Vardy hat-trick, and the same player snatched an equaliser there in a League Cup game a year later, which Guardiola’s men won on penalties. Last year, at the same stadium, an early Bernardo goal was cancelled out five minutes later by Marc Albrighton. With ten minutes to go, Ricardo fired in a stunning winner from outside the box. This time, the meeting is at the Etihad, so things may be different, but still … quite a stat.
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Players to watch: Kevyn de Bruyne & Wilfried Ndidi
Kevyn de Bruyne is one of those players that keeps broadsheet football correspondents in a job – it’s all too easy to write a few thousand words about how his languid playing style and innate sense of vision make him more like a fine artist than a footballer. The annoying thing is that it’s also true – watching de Bruyne play is like seeing a virtuoso in complete mastery of their art. In addition, there is none of the Cantona/Le Tissier tendency to disappear from games that you often find with such players: de Bruyne is always on his game.
The man charged with shaking de Bruyne off his perch will be Leicester’s all-action holding midfielder. In truth, the Nigerian international is as much an expert in his role as his direct counterpart here – when the Foxes were crying out for a new NGolo Kante after the original one left for Chelsea, Ndidi arrived and was different – but still essential. More of a physical presence than the man who went before, Ndidi is comfortable on the ball, but much more comfortable taking it off other players – and he’ll relish the challenge here.