This match has gone from being a foregone conclusion to being a fascinating game for the neutrals. The appeal of watching Leicester is obvious as they push on for the Premier League title, in what would be one of the biggest shocks in the history of the sport. However, Newcastle are coming into this match with a new manager, Rafa Benitez, who knows the league inside out, and he will make the Magpies a lot better heading into the run in. Benitez has just joined the club and will have had only three training sessions with his new squad, but the new manager bounce is a well known phenomenon, and Leicester will have to be wary.
After another good weekend for the team leading the chase for the league title, Leicester could go an incredible eight points clear on Monday. They will be confident of doing so, as Newcastle have been awful on the road this season, but they can’t be over-optimistic given the changes made at St James’ Park this week. The Foxes struggled in recent home matches against Norwich and West Brom, and that will give them reason to worry ahead of the visit of Newcastle. Their form has been good, but the pressure is getting ramped up every week and Leicester need to deal with that.
The visitors were appalling against Bournemouth last week and it proved to be the end of Steve McClaren. The board will be regretting their decision not to sack the former England manager after the humiliating defeat at Chelsea, as there was a 18 day gap after that match. They’ve since lost twice and given their new manager a very tough task in stopping the rot. The appointment of Benitez is an exciting one, but fans and players alike need to focus on the next ten games, before dreaming of what the Spaniard could achieve.
In the earlier meeting this season, Leicester won easily at St James’ Park by a 3-0 scoreline, in which Jamie Vardy broke the league record for the longest goalscoring streak. The other goals were scored by Leo Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki. In the corresponding fixture last season, Leicester also won 3-0, with a double from Leo Ulloa and another from Wes Morgan.
- Leicester have lost only one home match all season and that came against Arsenal.
- Of all managers to have taken charge of 50+ matches, Benitez has the 7th highest win percentage at 56%. If that is maintained over the next ten matches, Newcastle will stay up.
The Algerian is the standout candidate to win the PFA Player of the Year award for this season, scoring 15 goals and getting 11 assists. He is the only player in the league to have broken the ten mark for both goals and assists, highlighting his quality in the final third. Mahrez is also a player who can produce something out of nothing, which makes him a difficult player to defend against, as he can supply quality balls through to Jamie Vardy and shoot from distance. The Leicester winger has a successful take on percentage of 57.32%, showing that he more often than not manages to beat his man, while he has created 45 chances, with one created every 50.7 minutes. Moreover, his goal involvement per minute is 87.7 minutes, an incredible stat which means he either creates or scores every single game. Nobody predicted the Algerian’s rapid rise to the top this season and he will be attracting interest from the biggest clubs in the world this summer.
Moussa Sissoko has been a huge disappointment this season and if he wants to get to the Champions League, as he has talked about, he needs to massively improve his performances. He has sometimes taken it too easy under the last three managers, but he won’t be able to act like that under Benitez, who is known for instilling discipline in his squad. It will be interesting to see how the Spaniard uses Sissoko, who has played on the wing a lot in the last 12 months. His favoured position is in the centre, and he could be used there under Benitez. The Frenchman is one of the most creative players in the side, creating 47 chances this season, five of which led to goals. The next ten games will shape the future of Newcastle United. If they stay up, you would expect huge improvement under Benitez, and if they are to do so, they will need Sissoko to play well.
Ngolo Kante is expected to return, which is a huge boost for Leicester as the Frenchman has been one of their best players this season. Matty James will be missing for the league leaders.
Andros Townsend, Fabricio Coloccini, Gabriel Obertan, Kevin Mbabu, Papiss Cisse and Cheick Tiote are all back in training. Meanwhile Chancel Mbemba, Tim Krul, Massadio Haidara and Paul Dummett remain on the injury list.
This will be an intriguing match for the neutral as Leicester City are overwhelming favourites, but Newcastle will be a different proposition under their new manager. It will be interesting to see how much Benitez changes and how much of an impact he has had over three training sessions. It will take a long time to implement his tactics and philosophy on the squad, but the boost in morale could be enough to see the side turn in a much improved performance. Leicester have struggled in recent weeks to dispatch sides they should be beating at home and that will boost Newcastle, who will be giving their all to get out of their current predicament. I still expect Leicester to win, but it will be a lot closer than it would have been if McClaren had stayed at Newcastle.
Leicester 2-1 Newcastle