Bet of the Day: Leicester to edge out Newcastle in Premier LeaguePublished on: April 12, 2019Author: Antonia Kelly
For Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez, the challenge ahead is clear; get to the end of the season without becoming the third team to drop out of the Premier League via the relegation trap door. In truth, unless Cardiff can muster up a very unlikely three wins in their six remaining games, the Magpies are safe. However, Benitez hasn’t got to the level he has managed at for upwards of two decades without planning for all eventualities. Newcastle need to pick up points where they can to be sure of their place next season, and tonight’s trip to Leicester is the first chance to do that.
Leicester, rejuvenated under Brendan Rodgers, have won their last four matches in a row. A fifth here would equal the club’s record for most consecutive league games won. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an immediate red flag for Rafa and co. – those last four matches have come against Fulham, Burnley, Bournemouth and Huddersfield. Those clubs are not the cream of the Premier League, and there remains a feeling that a defeat on Rodgers’ debut at Watford aside, the Foxes haven’t truly been tested. Are the visitors in with a chance tonight?
Maddison seeking an Avenue back to England recognition
Much of the focus in Leicester’s Spring revival has been on striker Jamie Vardy, whose eight goals in the last eight Premier League matches have taken him to 15 in the league to this point. After a slow start, he could yet hit the 20 mark for the third time in four seasons. At 32, Vardy is showing that any manager who knows how to use him can still get a tune out of him. This week saw Rodgers indicate that the pacey striker plays more intelligently than most people realise, and the timing of Vardy’s run to head the opener against two taller Huddersfield defenders is a case in point.
However, perhaps Leicester’s key player tonight, and across the entire season, is James Maddison. Having arrived from Norwich last summer, the midfielder has apparently made the step up to top-flight football with no learning curve; a stunning free-kick against Huddersfield being a league-leading third time this season he has found the net from such a dead-ball opportunity. Given that Newcastle will come here to defend, and may well give away fouls in doing so, Maddison at 7/1 is a great shout for the game’s opening goal with Paddy Power.
Home comforts not so comforting?
An interesting stat coming into this game is that in the last five games between these sides, the away side has won four times. The one exception came in March 2016 when, on their way to the Premier League title, Leicester won 1-0 through a Shinji Okazaki goal. It’s the Foxes who have home “advantage” this evening, and you can bet that last season’s 2-1 defeat – which came about a year ago this week – will be playing on the minds of home fans who are suddenly awake to the possibility of European qualification.
There are reasons that these sides produce surprising results with seemingly little regard for home advantage. Leicester’s approach under previous coaches has been either counter-attacking or heavily possession-based. Neither of these modes works especially well against the massed defence that Benitez uses at Newcastle, but freeing Maddison to play an advanced role and allowing Vardy to press for the entire game might well be the key for the Foxes here. We’d expect them to come out (narrowly) ahead and at 23/4, a 1-0 margin of victory might well be a smart bet at 888.
A relaxing evening on the cards for the ref?
Leicester lead the Premier League in one stat as of this evening – they’ve picked up the most red cards with five. Wes Morgan (2), Harry Maguire, and Maddison and Vardy have taken the long walk already this season, and so it might not seem intuitive to back them to keep their noses clean tonight. However, since Rodgers’ arrival at the club, discipline seems to have improved. Whether this is connected to the Northern Irishman’s tactical approach, or the fact that the Foxes haven’t needed to commit many fouls against the mediocre opposition they’ve faced, who can say? Either way, they’re unlikely to add many names to the roll of dishonour tonight.
Newcastle are liable to sit in and seek to absorb pressure, putting very little stress on Leicester’s back line, and the Magpies will also happily let their opposition have the ball so there’s little need for the home midfield to put in many tackles. Therefore, at ⅘, Unibet’s odds on Rodgers’ men to receive fewer than 1.5 bookings from ref Chris Kavanagh may well be worth taking. We wouldn’t recommend a similar bet on Newcastle to avoid the book – James Maddison is the Premier League’s fourth most-fouled player, and is likely to draw much the same treatment this evening.
Bets of the Day
Maddison to score first (7/1, Paddy Power); Leicester 1-0 (23/4, 888); Fewer than 1.5 yellow cards for Leicester (⅘, Unibet)