Leicester City will be hope to consolidate third place on the Premier League table when they take on Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium on Friday.
The 2020/21 Premier League season in the endgame now, with just five rounds of fixtures left for the campaign to come to an end. Gameweek 34 begins this Friday at St. Mary’s Stadium, where a struggling Southampton side will play hosts to Leicester City.
Southampton were flying high in the first half of the season, even climbing to the top of the table once. However, their form has tailed off dramatically since the turn of the year, with the Saints losing 12 of the 16 Premier League games they have played in 2021. The horrendous run of results has invariably impacted their position quite severely, with Ralph Hasenhuttl & co. currently placed 15th.
Leicester City, on the other hand, have been flying high right from the onset of the campaign, and seem to have learnt some of the harsh lessons from 2019/20. That has, in turn, reflected in some of their ugly wins, as was the case earlier this week, as they came from a goal down to beat Crystal Palace 2-1. And, heading into Gameweek 34, the Foxes are third in the standings, seven clear of 5th placed West Ham United.
Southampton and Leicester have already locked horns twice this season, with the Foxes winning 2-0 in the reverse fixture back in January, while Kelechi Iheanacho scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over the Saints in the FA Cup semi-finals. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) April 29, 2021
Ralph Hasenhuttl has a fresh injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Leicester City. On Friday, the Southampton manager will be bereft of the services of as many as five first-team players.
The major absentee for the hosts is Danny Ings, who sustained a hamstring injury last time out against Tottenham, which has not only ruled him out of the visit of Leicester City, but could also be set to end his season prematurely. Apart from Ings, Southampton are also missing Ryan Bertrand (calf), Oriol Romeu (ankle), William Smallbone (knee) and Michael Obafemi (knock).
In a semblance of good news, Nathan Tella is fit and available, but is unlikely to start, with Theo Walcott likely to be deployed on the left side of a four-man midfield by Hasenhuttl. Indeed, Southampton should be lined up in their usual 4-4-2 formation on Friday, with Stuart Armstrong taking his place on the right flank.
Armstrong will provide the creative impetus for the hosts, while James Ward-Prowse and Ibrahima Diallo will be tasked with holding the fort in the middle of the park. Southampton captain Ward-Prowse, though, will also have the responsibility of providing dangerous deliveries from set-pieces while also taking aim at goal with his potent free-kicks.
Up ahead in attack, Nathan Redmond is likely to come in for the injured Ings, pairing up with Che Adams in the strike partnership. As for the defence, Mohammed Salisu should once again fill in as the left-back, with Kyle Walker-Peters a certainty on the right flank. Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard ought to pair up at the heart of the Southampton defence, with Alex McCarthy starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Salisu; Armstrong, Diallo, Ward-Prowse, Walcott; Adams, Redmond
Unlike his counterpart in the Southampton dugout, Brendan Rodgers does not have any newly discovered roster issue to contend with ahead of the trip to St. Mary’s Stadium. On Friday, the Leicester City boss will have to make do without as many as three first-team players.
Rodgers has still been handed a blow this week, as he confirmed that Harvey Barnes has suffered a setback in his recovery trail from a knee injury and is likely to have been ruled out for the rest of the season. Apart from Barnes, Leicester are also without James Justin (knee) and Wes Morgan (back), both of whom could be done for the season as well.
“The plan is really to get him through this second little operation and then he’ll be back for pre-season and fit and ready for next season.” 💬
— Leicester City (@LCFC) April 29, 2021
Considering Leicester do not have any other competition to participate in till the FA Cup final next month, Rodgers is likely to keep the rotations to a bare minimum, retaining the recently preferred 3-4-1-2 formation, with Kasper Schmeichel the obvious pick in goal.
The three-man central defensive unit picks itself, with Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu being the favoured selections. The only major change should come in the wing-back slots, with Ricardo Pereira coming in for Luke Thomas, despite the Englishman’s decent display against Crystal Palace.
Pereira’s return means Timothy Castagne could move out into the left wing-back position, with the Portuguese defender starting on the right flank. In the middle of the park, there is no looking past the dynamic tandem of Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans, who will not only provide a solid base in midfield but also pave the way for efficient ball progression.
Tielemans, along with James Maddison, will also provide the creative impetus higher up the pitch. The onus, though, will be on Kelechi Iheanacho to deliver the goods in the final third, while strike partner and veteran forward Jamie Vardy will be hoping to rediscover his mean streak inside the opposition box.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Schmeichel; Fofana, Evans, Soyuncu; Pereira, Ndidi, Tielemans, Castagne; Maddison; Iheanacho, Vardy
- Southampton have lost their last three home games in the Premier League against Leicester City by an aggregate score of 15-2. Their 9-0 defeat in this fixture last season is the biggest home defeat for any side in English top-flight history.
- Leicester won the reverse fixture against Southampton 2-0 in January, but have not done the double over the Saints in the Premier League since the 1999/00 season.
- Southampton have dropped more points from winning positions than any other Premier League side this season (21).
- Southampton have taken just 10 points from their 16 Premier League games so far in 2021 (W3 D1 L12), fewer than any other English top-flight side since the turn of the year. The Saints have lost 12 of their last 15 league games, a run that started with the defeat to Leicester in the reverse fixture.
- Theo Walcott has scored five goals against Leicester City. If he finds the back of the net this Friday, he will have matched his best tally of six goals against a single club, having reached that number against Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.
Player to Watch
The spotlight, of late, has been on Kelechi Iheanacho, and it appears as if the torch might have been passed to the next generation. However, Jamie Vardy would probably like to show that there is still a lot of life left in him, as a world class striker in the Premier League.
The veteran Englishman has, for years now, carried the burden of scoring goals for Leicester City on his own. However, even as Iheanacho continues to go strong, Vardy needs to rediscover his best form in order to help Leicester City to not just a strong finish to their Premier League campaign but also possibly triumph in the FA Cup.
It all starts with the trip to St. Mary’s on Friday, a fixture in which Vardy famously scored a hat-trick as part of a 9-0 demolition of Southampton last season. Can he play with the same swagger again versus the Saints?
Southampton 0-3 Leicester City
Leicester City might have one of the best away records in the Premier League this season, but they have been slipping up a tad bit on their travels lately. Having said that, Southampton have a dismal recent record at St. Mary’s in the Premier League, having conceded 11 goals in their last six games, keeping no clean sheet in those outings.
With Kelechi Iheanacho showing no signs of slowing down, Southampton could once again be in for a long night. Jamie Vardy could well be in among the goals as well on Friday and with that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for Brendan Rodgers & co. in a result that will solidify their place on the table further.