Fresh of the back of a defeat – but far from a humiliation – at the home of a former employer, Claudio Ranieri takes his Fulham team into battle against the club with whom he achieved his greatest triumph. The visit of Leicester – from a city where a mural of the popular Italian still has pride of place – will be bittersweet both for Ranieri and the City fans, but presumably a lot more bitter than sweet for one party at the end of the 90 minutes. Little more than a month on from the death of Leicester owner Vichai Srivadhannaprabha, who appointed Ranieri, it’s sure to be an emotionally-charged occasion.
Fulham’s last two games have indicated the positives that the club can still draw from this season, and the negatives they have to overcome. Victory over Southampton was achieved with impressive attacking flair, but a rickety defence was still in evidence both in that game and in the 2-0 defeat at Chelsea. Leicester, for their part, are now unbeaten in five games, and impressed in beating Watford 2-0 at the weekend.
Fulham vs Leicester City Prediction: Fulham 1-2 Leicester City
Claudio Ranieri facing Leicester City has many sub-plots, and an understated one of those is that both the manager and his former club wish they could still call on NGolo Kante to screen in front of their defence. In the absence of Harry Maguire, City are conceding a few too many avoidable goals, while Fulham fell behind early at Chelsea when Kante robbed their midfielder Jean-Michel Seri to create a goal after four minutes. There’s a fair chance of both sides getting on the scoresheet, but the visitors are more of a finished article right now and should emerge with the win.
Our recommended tip: Alexsandar Mitrovic scores
Counting the League Cup game against Southampton, Leicester have actually kept clean sheets in four of the last five games, but their defence still shows signs of creaking when placed under pressure. As much as Fulham have been on the receiving end of too many defeats this season, the form of Serbian forward Mitrovic has continued to impress. Although his team may not win the game, 888’s odds of 7/5 (2.40) for their main striker to add to his seven goals this season are attractive – he matches the aerial quality and tenacity of Glenn Murray, the last player to score against the Foxes.
These sides have, between them, spent plenty of time in the Premier League over the years, but typically not at the same time. In fact, because Leicester won promotion back to the top flight in 2014 – when Fulham were relegated from it – their only meetings since 2004 have come in Cup action. They last met in 2013, when Championship side Leicester won 4-3 through goals from Morgan, Wood, Miquel and Dyer. Wes Morgan is likely to be in action again here, as is Kasper Schmeichel, who played in goal for CIty that day. The last three games between these sides have seen a total of nineteen goals scored – dare we hope for more attacking fireworks tonight?
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Players to watch: Sergio Rico & James Maddison
Rico has had to pick the ball from his net altogether too often in recent weeks, and was at it again in the Chelsea match as the Blues scored at either end of the game. However, were it not for the former Sevilla keeper, there could well have been a much wider margin in a derby match against a strong attacking opponent. If Rico can be as alert here there’s a chance he could earn his side a point or more against a Leicester attack that’s showing signs of gelling.
It’s often hard to believe that Maddison is in his first season as a Premier League player. Since his move from Norwich in the summer, he’s been Leicester’s standout. In the draw with Brighton, he was sent off for two bookable offences inside 25 minutes – the second an obvious dive. He copped to his error, and promised to make things right – something he did within one week (almost to the minute) with a stunning strike against Watford. If Fulham aren’t organised at the back, Maddison could have a field day.