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leicester prog bannerThe stop/start we have to every season now with the early international breaks is about to get started again as we return to action with a trip to Leicester City, two weeks since our 1-0 win against Everton.

It’s been four games and then a break twice so far and it will be the same over the next five weeks with four consecutive Saturday games followed by the season’s third international break and it’s a tough set of four games coming up. The last set of four games against two of the teams above us, one behind us only on goal difference and the other against a newly promoted club on their home ground.

It starts at Leicester and they are the team everyone is talking about being the most likely, if any, to break the top six monopoly. They’ve done it once previously, four seasons ago when they won the Premier League and are currently in fourth place. We sit just three places behind them and with just two points less. Put it this way, if the penalty hadn’t been given at Wolves we’d be level with them but, having said that, had we not scored in stoppage time at Brighton then we could have been further behind.

That last group of four games was good for us. Besides the Brighton game, we also drew at Aston Villa while both home games were won, against Norwich and Everton, which brought us two clean sheets. The Everton game was exactly the sort of game we were winning a couple of seasons ago when we finished where we currently are in seventh place in the Premier League but I’m certainly not getting all excited at the thought of another go at Europe.

There was a time when travelling to Leicester used to be give you a lot of optimism. We had a good run of results at Filbert Street in the 1960s; in 1961/62 we won 6-2 in the league with a performance that many judges believed was our best in that era, and later in the season we beat Fulham there in an FA Cup semi-final replay.

More recently, we didn’t conceded a single goal in our first five visits to the current stadium. We were the first team ever to beat Leicester there in 2002. That was a 1-0 win as were three of the next four visits with the other one ending in a 0-0 draw. Since, however, it’s not been plain sailing at all. We’ve played another eight games there of which we’ve drawn four and lost four. Probably the pick of those draws was the 2-2 in 2014/15 that saw upset the arrogant and disrespectful Nigel Pearson.

The last win came in November 2007 when Andy Gray scored the goal with Steve Davis in charge of the team, so we go there tomorrow looking for our first win in Leicester for twelve years.

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One player who hasn’t featured for the Clarets previously at the King Power but will line up for us tomorrow is Dwight McNeil. He scored against them at home last season but wasn’t in the team at Leicester. Looking forward to tomorrow’s game, the newly capped England under-21 international spoke of our start to the season.

He said: “For a couple of hours we went fourth in the league which shows how good a start we’ve had. Hopefully we can kick on from here. I don’t think we’ll get any free games any more because of that position we’re in, but hopefully we can keep doing what we have been as a team and take it into the next two games.”

Since being named in the team to play against West Ham in our final game of 2018, Dwight has started every single Premier League game apart from the defeat at Everton in our final away game of last season, and he’s certain to start again tomorrow having really stepped things up, form wise, in his last couple of games.

There will be absences though. Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson returned to the side against Everton after recovering from injury, but he’s been ruled out again for a number of weeks and will need to be replaced. Jeff Hendrick, who was outstanding in that position, would be the obvious choice but he is probably going to be needed again in the centre of the midfield with Jack Cork rated doubtful.

Other than those two, Danny Drinkwater is ruled out of a league debut for us against his former club and Ashley Barnes will need to be assessed because of a tight groin although I expect him to be passed fit. Erik Pieters has been passed fit and is likely to resume his place at left back having been replaced by Charlie Taylor for much of the second half against Everton.

We could line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs from: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Charlie Taylor, Robbie Brady, Jay Rodriguez, Matěj Vydra.

Leicester have made an excellent start to the season. They’ve won four and drawn two of their eight games with the only defeats coming at Manchester United and Liverpool. The winning goals in both those games, or losing goals as far as Leicester were concerned, came from penalties.

At home, they drew 0-0 on the opening day of the season against Wolves but it’s been a 100% record since with wins against Bournemouth, Tottenham and, most recently, Newcastle who they hammered 5-0 although it has to be said that Newcastle were pretty woeful.

As always, Jamie Vardy is the main goal threat. He’s scored five goals this season. He netted in their only away win at Sheffield United and since has scored twice in each of the home wins against Bournemouth and Newcastle.

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Their form is a follow on from the end of last season after Brendan Rodgers came in as manager. They picked up twenty points from their last eleven games, a total only beaten by Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton in that period.

All the talk at Leicester has been about James Maddison who watched the England came from a casino having been sent home ill, but Rodgers has said he is fit to play. Dennis Praet (pictured) could also be available. He was on international duty with Belgium and remained there for personal reasons but was expected to return to Leicester today.

Leicester were beaten at Liverpool last time out when they lined up: Kasper Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çaglar Söyüncü, Ben Chilwell, Wilfred Ndidi, Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy. Subs: Danny Ward, James Justin, Wes Morgan, Demarai Gray, Marc Albrighton, Ajoze Pérez, Choudhury.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

It’s almost a year ago and was Leicester’s first home game following the helicopter crash outside the stadium that took the lives of five people which included their chairman Vichai Srividdhanaprabha.

It was an emotional day for every connected with Leicester City and I was one of five members of Burnley FC Supporters Groups who laid a wreath at their memorial site along with one laid jointly on behalf of five Leicester supporters groups.

leicester silence 1000x500As for the game, this was a Burnley team that had conceded 13 goals in the previous three games, five at Manchester City and then four against both Chelsea at home and at West Ham, although we did score twice ourselves at West Ham, so to keep a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw did at least seem like progress.

We did so too without James Tarkowski who was ruled out with an injury that would force him to have a second bout of surgery but Jack Cork was fit to return with Ashley Westwood being left out.

Leicester were the better side in the first half and we were perhaps fortunate to be level at half time, but it was a much improved second half showing  and, in the end, we deserved our draw. We thought it might be a turning point but, alas, we lost six of the next seven games before things did finally turn round for us.

The teams were;

Leicester: Kasper Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Wes Morgan, Jonny Evans (Çaglar Söyüncü 90), Ben Chilwell, Nampalys Mendy, Wilfred Ndidi, Marc Albrighton (Kelechi Iheanacho 60), Rachid Ghezzal, Demarai Gray, (Shinji Okazaki 84), Jamie Vardy. Subs not used: Danny Ward, Danny Simpson, Christian Fuchs, Vicente Iborra.

Burnley: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Robbie Brady 65), Steven Defour (Jeff Hendrick 55), Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon, Chris Wood, Sam Vokes (Ashley Barnes 73). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Ashley Westwood, Matěj Vydra.

Leicester will be remembering those who lost their lives in the helicopter crash tomorrow, their final home game before the first anniversary. There will be a minute’s silence ahead of kick off.

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