Leicester City could take another giant step to securing top four qualification when Newcastle United visit the King Power Stadium on Friday night.
The Foxes are unbeaten in their last four matches in competitions but failed to beat ten-man Southampton in their last encounter which would have put them seven points clear of fifth-place West Ham United heading into the final stretch.
On the other hand, Newcastle are all but safe from relegation having lost just one of their last five outings and sit nine points ahead of the drop zone with four games remaining.
Although 14 places separate the two teams in the Premier League, it’s poised to be a much tighter affair on Filbert Way considering their recent form and what is to play for from now until the end of the season.
Magpies a threat on the break
After a run of one win in eight matches, Newcastle have picked up their form of recent late and look a dangerous opponent to whoever they’re facing. Prior to last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at home to Arsenal, Steve Bruce’s men collected points against European-chasing Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, and Liverpool since the last international break.
The return of French winger Allan Saint-Maximin has given Newcastle another option and a dangerous threat on the counter-attack, especially versus the sides in the top-half. Since his comeback from injury in the 2-2 draw with Spurs on April 4, the Magpies have averaged 12 shots per game, with five of those on target, in comparison to just eight in the three matches which Saint-Maximin missed.
His pace and skill has allowed Newcastle to play on the counter-attack and after his excellent cameo against Burnley, where he scored and grabbed an assist in a 2-1 win, his influence has also helped other players shine.
Callum Wilson’s initial burst of form at the start of the season came alongside Saint-Maximin’s good creative output. The pair both grabbed at least a goal and assist during the reverse victory against the Clarets earlier in the campaign and the ex-Bournemouth forward’s return from a hamstring strain will give them extra firepower up front too.
Joe Willock has been superb since signing on loan from Arsenal in January, scoring four times and the threat the Magpies have to break quickly will be a concern for the Foxes. Bruce’s side showed against Liverpool that they can be dangerous with the quality on the pitch, and although they are nearly safe, they will want to mathematically confirm it with a positive result.
How Leicester can stop the threat
Newcastle have averaged less than 45% possession in their last seven matches and Friday’s encounter is likely to be a similar total or less. There’s no doubt that Leicester will have a lot of the ball but it will be a difficult task to break a low block and a tight defensive unit down who won’t want to give much space away to their opponents.
City, however, have been fairly tight at the back since their defeat at West Ham, conceding just twice in four matches and one of those was a penalty. The back three that Brendan Rodgers has set up with recently has worked and the pace which Wesley Fofana and Caglar Soyuncu possess in particular can stop Saint-Maximin and Wilson from showing what they’re capable of.
It will be equally important to score the first goal. The game against Crystal Palace and the Southampton clash to an extent proved how important getting the opener will be, as Leicester often find it hard to break through teams who sit in. If the Foxes do manage to go into the lead, then they will fancy their chances of winning comfortably, but with the threat, Newcastle bring to the table could harm City’s opportunity to almost seal their top-four place.