Leicester City vs Middlesbrough Preview: Champions look to capitalise on European form

The Foxes welcome a resurgent Boro side to the King Power Stadium after continuing their Champions League fairytale in midweek

Leicester City vs Middlesbrough Preview: Champions look to capitalise on European form
Leicester City celebrate during their Champions League win over Club Brugge | Photo: Plumb Images/Getty Images

Middlesbrough may have missed out on the Championship trophy while Leicester City were winning the league title last season, but just one point and one place separate them so far this term.

The Foxes have been disappointing in the league so far and find themselves in 14th position, but their recent qualification from the Champions League group stage could prove the catalyst for an upturn in form.

Boro, meanwhile, started the season in fairly nondescript manner but draws with Arsenal and Manchester City, as well as a solid performance in a narrow defeat to leaders Chelsea, suggest that they could threaten Leicester if they play to their potential.

Team news

One of Claudio Ranieri's better performers this season, Danny Drinkwater, will be absent from midfield as he sits out the first game of a three-match ban.

He is suspended following a charge of violent conduct after elbowing Valon Behrami of Watford, but strikers Islam Slimani and Leonardo Ulloa are back in contention following their recent injuries.

The visitors will be without influential left-back and stand-in captain George Friend, after he picked up a knock in training. He missed the Chelsea game last weekend and Aitor Karanka has confirmed he could be out of action for three to four weeks.

However, Karanka suggested in his pre-match press conference that Daniel Ayala could be back in contention to start after recovering from a niggling ankle injury.

Head-to-head

Leicester are unbeaten in their last 12 clashes with Middlesbrough in all competitions and hold the greater historical record as a result, with 35 wins to Boro's 29.

The last four games have all gone their way - in their last meeting, a 2-0 Leicester win in their Championship promotion campaign, Jamie Vardy and recent Boro loanee Ritchie de Laet were on the scoresheet.

Out-of-form strikers look to hit goal trail

Vardy has not scored for Leicester since September, but Ranieri is confident that he will soon be back to his best form - though he did admit that he and the rest of his side no longer enjoy the element of surprise which helped them last season.

"That is the big problem," he told the BBC. "Jamie is always normal, the same last season. You don't see him nervous or frustrated.

"But sooner or later Vardy will come back. I speak every day with him. He is very calm, very concentrated in his job, to work for the team."

Karanka backs misfiring Negredo

Middlesbrough have goalscoring problems of their own with first-choice striker Alvaro Negredo without a strike to his name since the opening-day draw with Stoke City.

Yet, Karanka has echoed Ranieri's message of support for his forward and says he will "score goals for sure" if he continues working hard for the team.

"When a striker is not scoring goals he is always going to have his critics, just like when a team is not winning a manager is going to have his critics.

"Everybody has to understand we are not a top team going five or 10 times in the opponents' box - we have to wait for our chances.

"Leicester are not in a good moment so we will have to arrive more times in the opponents' box and he is going to score goals for sure in the way that he is working."