Leicester City find themselves in a strong position again as we head into the final 9 game weeks of the season. The Foxes sit 3rd in the league and just 1 point behind Manchester United and have one of their smallest injury lists they’ve had all season.
The added squad depth and favourable fixtures give Leicester a great chance of a top 4 finish and an opportunity to put last season’s collapse behind them. But who should we be considering for our Fantasy teams?
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Leicester have to tackle 2 tough fixtures in GW30 (Man City) & GW31 (West Ham) before getting a favourable swing in GW32 playing West Brom, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Newcastle. Of course these teams also have a lot to play for and Southampton have been very unlucky with injuries so should not be underestimated if they can keep players like Vestergaard and Walker-Peters fit but on paper these are ideal fixtures for Leicester who boast the 5th best xG in the league.
For context this is how Leicester’s opponents match up in terms of xGA (expected goals allowed):
- West Brom – 20th
- Crystal Palace – 16th
- Southampton – 12th
- Newcastle – 14th
Clearly these are favourable matchups for Leicester’s potent attack and there are not too many sides with better runs from GW32-36. Leicester’s fixtures do swing again after this as they take on Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs in their final three but this is an even bigger incentive for Rodger’s and co to capitalise against the “easier” teams.
This is also an ideal opportunity to switch to West ham assets for the remainder of the season as they come out of a tricky patch of games and take on Brighton, West Brom and Southampton to finish their so far successful campaign.
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Leicester have seemingly gone from bare bones to being blessed with options in the space of a few games; Ayoze Perez and Dennis Praet have now returned from injury and both featured in Leicester’s FA Cup victory over Manchester United, a much needed boost in midfield in the absence of James Maddison. Ricardo Pereira should be fine for a return after missing the last game due to some muscular tightness along with Cengiz Under who will provide further attacking depth from the bench.
For the rest of the squad the predicted return dates are as follows:
- James Maddison – 03/04/2021 (Possibly ok after the International break but being monitored on a day by day basis).
- Harvey Barnes – 24/04/2021 (Has undergone knee surgery and likely to be eased back in).
- James Justin – No fixed date yet, likely to miss a good chunk of next season as well.
The return of James Maddison is another huge boost for the Foxes and Barnes should not be too far behind him although has some competition with Iheanacho thriving in Brendan’s new system.
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Leicester have played a variety of systems this season, sometimes as tactical adjustments and other times to deal with multiple injuries leaving Rodgers short handed. Over the campaign so far it would appear that 4-2-3-1 has been the preferred shape and this has been utilised most often but Rodger’s seems to have struck hold with his current 3-4-1-2 formation, a more attacking variant of the equally successful 5-4-1 deployed earlier in the season.
There are a few ways we can interpret the current change in formation, obviously it’s been necessary to manage the injuries to key outlets like Barnes and Maddison but also the last couple of games have been the first opportunity to play a fully fit back 3 of Evans, Soyuncu and Fofana. the pace provided by Soyuncu and Fofana allows the wing backs to play in a much more advanced position, especially on the right side where for the past 2 games Fofana has essentially filled in at right back during the Leicester attack, Evans provides a wise head and commands the line along with Captain Schmeichel between the sticks.
With the back 3 looking solid and Castagne and Pereira more than competent in the wing back position this does raise a question as to where Barnes fits into the team. Of course Rodger’s calls the shots and Leicester could revert back to their trusty 4-2-3-1 but there appear to be a number of factors against this at present.
- The current back three are playing in tandem so dropping one of them becomes difficult.
- Iheanacho and Vardy are playing well together with the former being on a hot streak in front of goal.
- A lack of wingers of Barnes quality means a compromise would be needed on the right side to accommodate him
- Returning from surgery makes it unlikely that Barnes will be rushed straight into the starting 11, especially if the goals continue to flow.
- The absence of a real back up striker means Barnes and Perez may be utilised as sub strikers as and when they are needed
All things considered I personally believe the 3-4-1-2 will be here to stay for a while but Rodger’s has been known to change systems game to game so a mixture of the two is not out of the question.
When we take the information so far into account there are some standout picks amongst the Leicester ranks across all three position groups.
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Many managers may not be too keen on bringing in a Leicester defender after Ricardo Pereira’s antics in recent week’s capped off by his half time exit against Sheffield United, one of the easiest clean sheets of the season but there’s still some value to be had in the Foxes backline. Wesley Fofana 5m and Timothy Castagne 5.7m are both solid alternatives to Ricardo that will save you some cash at the same time.
Castagne’s attacking threat was one of the key factors in acquiring him for Atalanta and he burst onto the scene with a goal on his debut and 2 assists in the opening games of the season, he has also proved to be a very competent defender ranking 4th in the side for successful tackles and blocks (key metrics of the bonus points system). Only the injured James Justin and Midfield duo Tielemans and Ndidi have outperformed Castagne in these areas showing how well he has adapted to the physicality of the Premier league.
Another player who has taken to the Premier League with ease is 20 year old Wesley Fofana, another success story for the Leicester scouting team who appear to uncovered another gem. Fofana has all the traits needed to succeed as a modern centre back he’s quick, strong and incredibly confident with the ball at his feet.
“Little” Wes has also displayed the grit and fight needed to compete against some of the world’s best strikers and has the 3rd most interceptions of any Leicester player this season behind veteran Jonny Evans and yes you guessed it, Wilfred Ndidi. he is also just behind Castagne in 5th for both blocks and tackles showing just how involved the young French starlet is when he takes the field. At 5m Fofana could be an ideal 4th or even 5th defender for FPL managers.
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Although Tielemans continues to chip in with goals and assists on a fairly consistent basis for a deep lying midfielder the standout option with Barnes minutes looking uncertain has to be James Maddison 7.1m . Madders is the “Luxury” player in Brendan’s side, a textbook number 10 who floats between the lines and has a certain swagger in his play. with 8 goals (3rd behind Vardy and Barnes) and 5 assists (2nd behind Vardy) Maddison is having strong season in terms of goal contributions.
I tend to approach Maddison’s stats with caution, he is currently over performing his xG (3.4) and xA (3.8) but I feel he is one of very few players where we should expect this. Maddison is an expert at operating outside the box and has a highlight reel that competes with some of the best midfielders in the league.
With Maddison likely to operate behind the new front two of Vardy and Iheanacho I expect his underlying numbers to increase over the remainder of the season as space should be much easier to find and he has more options to choose from when finding a pass. It is always worth noting Maddison is Leicester’s designated set piece taker as well and although this has not been a fruitful route to goal so far the addition of an extra centre back to the side gives Leicester another big man to aim at.
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Leicester strikers will be all the rage come GW32 and the obvious choices are both worth consideration. Jamie Vardy 10.1m and Kelechi Iheanacho 5.7m are forming a lethal partnership up top and compliment each other well. Vardy’s elite off ball movement is creating plenty of space for Iheanacho and having a strike partner has definitely lifted the weight from Vardy’s shoulders during his dry spell in front of goal.
Iheanacho is much cheaper of course and is on a red hot streak of 9 goals in 9 for Leicester, Iheanacho looks to finally be delivering on the promise he shown at Man City and is making himself very hard to drop. He’s currently on an impressive xGI (expected goal involvement) of 0.77 but this is nothing new for Iheanacho who has a respectable xGI of 0.59 during his 4 years with the Foxes. Should he maintain his spot, which looks increasingly likely, Iheanacho could be great value at a budget friendly 5.7m.
At the opposite end of the budget is Jamie Vardy who despite a rough patch is still Leicester’s leader for goals (12) and assists (7) and is racking up an insane xG per 90 minutes of 0.70, this is by far the best in the league at present with Harry Kane taking second spot with an xG per 90 of 0.57. Vardy has always been a patchy striker and variance is inevitable but if he gets going in front of goal again Vardy could be a very dangerous proposition. Factor in the small matter of penalties and Vardy quickly becomes an attractive asset.
If this wasn’t enough Vardy’s selfless work for the team means his xA has also been solid this season, Vardy has an xGI of 0.89, just beating KDB to top spot in the league. 10.1m may seem like a lot but last years golden boot winner having the best underlying stats and favourable fixtures on the horizon should not be ignored.
All stats taken from fbref.com