So, this is it. We have reached the final two games of the 2018/19 Premier League season. Take yourself back to when we still had Manchester United and Burnley to play and you would have said these were the easiest of the remaining four fixtures – suddenly, the worry and nerves are higher than ever. Leicester City are the penultimate opponents of the campaign at the Etihad Stadium.
This one has the feel of the home game against Aston Villa in 2014, and is almost certain to be as nervy as that one. Brendan Rodgers’ side travel to the Etihad off the back of an impressive 3-0 home win against Arsenal while Manchester City had a less than comfortable victory over Burnley at Turf Moor.
Leicester City are in a good position going into the final two games in the Premier League – safely within the top-half of the Premier League. We saw the arrival of Brendan Rodgers at the club this season too. How would you assess the Foxes’ campaign as a whole?
The first half of the season was one of vast disappointment. Claude Puel had started what appeared to be an exciting rebuild of our squad and we had a productive summer, resulting in a side that, on the face of it, had an ideal balance of youth and experience. Despite all this promise, the football under Puel was at times turgid, with our results against City and Chelsea massive outliers as we continued to underwhelm. The results were poor but the football on display was the real worry and ultimately Puel lost the fans, something which is very hard to recover from and ultimately he was sacked.
Then Rodgers came in and immediately the mood changed. Suddenly, optimism returned to the Leicester faithful, and Rodgers’ arrival, combined with that of Youri Tielemans, sparked some brilliant performances with the results to match, as Leicester set about playing some free-flowing, attacking football. 7th seems hugely unlikely, but if we can finish in the top half, I will be pretty happy as our trajectory certainly seems to be upwards.
On the topic of Brendan Rodgers, Leicester have lost just twice since his arrival in February of this year. How would you assess his reign at the club so far and what do you feel he may achieve during his time at the King Power?
Brendan has settled in remarkably well and certainly hit the ground running. I am always wary of the classic “Dead Cat Bounce” that can happen, but I don’t think this is the case. Tactically he has shown himself to be astute and willing to compromise. We finally have a Plan A and a Plan B, something we’ve lacked since our title-winning season. The effect he has had on our key players as well can’t be understated. Jamie Vardy is back to his lethal best and I am intrigued to see how James Maddison continues to develop under Rodgers, as he has been used in a different role than under Claude Puel and seems to thrive on it.
Long term who knows? I would hope that we can establish ourselves as one of, if not the best of the rest outside the top six. Eventually though, the goal has to be European football once more and I have no doubt that we can achieve this under Rodgers but feel the transfer market will be key.
Much is being made of Brendan Rodgers facing Manchester City, especially on Merseyside given his history with Liverpool. From a neutral point of view, who would you rather see win the Premier League this season?
I’m bound to say this, but Manchester City personally. Nothing against Liverpool, but I quite like there being a longer list of clubs who haven’t won it since we did! An ideal weekend for me is Leicester to win and Liverpool to draw – make it all to play for on the last day!
In the past few months, we’ve relayed rumours of a potential swoop for Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell from Manchester City. Despite it being reported that Guardiola’s side are not in the market for a full-back, do you feel Ben Chilwell is the type of player that could secure the first-choice left-back spot at the Etihad Stadium?
Yes certainly as he has all the attributes of a Pep Guardiola wing-back. He is quick, athletic and very happy in possession, especially in transition. His biggest strength is running at defences, but he certainly doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibility either, with particular prowess in the air. I don’t think he is quite ready for the jump in quality expected just yet however, but I have no doubt that Ben Chilwell has the potential to play for a top club but hopefully not for a couple of years yet!
Leicester City will be travelling to the Etihad Stadium full of confidence, coming off the back of a 3-0 victory over fourth place-chasing Arsenal. How do you see this clash going?
Being realistic, we know it’s going to be tough for us – there is a reason why Manchester City are top after all. However, on our day I think we can give anyone a game and I expect us to at least try to play – it won’t be a park the bus job ‘a la burnley’ that is for sure! IF we get an early goal, and that’s not impossible with Jamie Vardy’s record against top sides, then it will make for a very interesting game as our side has pace in abundance. Having said that, if Manchester City turn up then it could be a long afternoon for the Foxes.
Who are the key members of the Leicester City squad that Manchester City should particularly lookout for given their recent form?
Jamie Vardy – he has been on fire lately and absolutely relishes the big game, especially if it gives him the opportunity to rile opposition fans….
James Maddison – The playmaker. Set piece delivery is a key strength, but I really like his movement in the half spaces, and gets away from players ever so well.
Youri Tielemans – What a difference he has made! Balances our midfield perfectly and links with Maddison/Vardy very well.
Jonny Evans – criminally underrated and has forged an excellent understanding with Maguire.
Leicester City Starting XI and Score prediction?
Schmeichel; Chilwell, Evans, Maguire, Pereira; Choudhury, Ndidi, Tielemans; Maddison, Vardy, Albrighton.
Manchester City 2-1 Leicester City