Leicester City: Schemeichel, Chilwell, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Drinkwater, Kanté, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy
Norwich City: Ruddy, Martin, Klose, Bassong, Brady, Redmond, O’Neil, Howson, Naismith, Hoolahan, Mbokani
And so the dream continues. Despite that gut wrenching defeat to Arsenal in the final moments of the game courtesy of Danny Welbeck, Leicester still find themselves top of the table by 2 points. And whilst all their title rivals busied themselves with FA Cup games and silly commitments in Europe, Leicester City went on holiday and had a little bit of town time. Actually, this game represents one of the more tanned affairs as Norwich City also ventured off east to Abu Dhabi to bring a little bit of sunshine to the gloom that has begun to surround Carrow Road.
Every time I have written about Leicester City this season, I always have to take a moment to sit back and remind myself that they could win the league. I mean they really could win the league. The footballing Gods have gone mad this season and decided to let Ranieri have a shot at the fairy tale ending that no one saw coming. What is equally amazing though is that it isn’t by chance or fluke. This isn’t October anymore. The clocks even go forward in a month’s time and Leicester could still be top of the table playing one of the most exciting brands of counter-attacking football the Premier League has ever seen.
Two questions remain however. Firstly, what would they do if Mahrez or Vardy got injured? Luckily, for all Foxes fans, this is something they haven’t really had to deal with, bar Vardy’s short absence at the turn of the year. Secondly, was the defeat at the Emirates the moment the bubble burst? We all remember Gerrard’s slip. It was after the game against Chelsea that you sort of felt that the party bus had pulled up a stop early with a puncture, the question surely now must be was Danny Welbeck’s goal the moment Leicester came back down to earth?
Being out of the FA Cup might be Ranieri’s saviour. Leicester City haven’t played any real competitive football since Valentine’s Day (bar one or two who turned out for u-21’s) and such a break has in turn offered the chance to draw a line in the sand, for individuals to collate their thoughts and to go again.
Norwich City also had a weekend off due to their 3-0 defeat to Man City in the FA Cup way back on the 9th January and consequently flew out to Abu-Dhabi for some warm weather training. Norwich really are the team tumbling down the league. No win in six, 50 goals conceded in 26 games (joint worst in the league) and in that run of games were two capitulations at Carrow Road, throwing away a two-goal lead on both occasions.
Time away from the Premier League, an unbroken week on the training field, all sounds very much like Jurgen Klopp’s dream right now but for Alex Neil its importance mustn’t be underplayed. Norwich City signed well in January. They needed some new blood in defence and they needed some goals and consequently signed two defenders and Steven Naismith. All three players will be better off for spending time with the squad and trying to understand what Neil requires from them for the rest of the season, especially Pinto and Klose who will have had a couple of games to acclimatise to the Premier League and now a good fortnight to work on tactics. It is now that these players need to prove they are capable of keeping the Canaries in the Premier League.
However much I applaud Norwich and Alex Neil for playing football that is attractive on the eye and operating within their means, I can’t help but feel that they are going to have a difficult afternoon up at the King Power Stadium. Energy levels will be high from both teams, but it is exactly when energy levels are high that Leicester City are at their most dangerous and I can’t help but think that the Arsenal result, rather than see Leicester sink into their shell, will see the Foxes come out all guns blazing. Let’s hope that Norwich have done their defensive homework because come 6pm on Saturday, Jamie Vardy might well be having one hell of a party as Leicester go 5 points clear at the top of the league.
Match Prediction: Leicester City 3-1 Norwich City
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog
Form over the last 6 games
All Statistic Graphics provided by Sporticos