Amid all the uncertainty surrounding the festive football, Manchester City are set to host Leicester in the Premier League’s Boxing Day round of fixtures.
The Cityzens head into the tie in scintillating form. With the exception of a 2-1 defeat to RB Leipzig in the Champions League, Pep Guardiola’s side has done nothing bit win since the beginning of November. 7-0 and 4-0 victories over Leeds and Newcastle respectively in their previous two see the hosts sit top of the tree at Christmas, three points ahead of Liverpool in second.
Talking of Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers’ men will have to dust themselves down from a League Cup penalty shootout defeat to the Reds on Wednesday night. The Foxes have seen their previous two Premier League fixtures postponed but, most recently, also thrashed Newcastle 4-0. Having played one or two games fewer than their immediate rivals, Leicester sit ninth in the table and really have to start picking up consistent form should they mount a European push this term.
Here’s 90min’s preview of this one.
When is kick off? Sunday 26 December, 15:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Etihad Stadium
What TV channel is it on? Sky Sports Soccer Special (UK), fuboTV (US)
Highlights? BBC Match of the Day (UK), Sky Sports Football YouTube
Who’s the referee? Chris Kavanagh
Who’s the VAR? Paul Tierney
The hosts’ squad is looking fit coming into this clash, with the world class Kyle Walker representing the only doubt for Guardiola’s side. Elsewhere, Ferran Torres will be the only certain absentee as the Spaniard continue his road to recovery.
Phil Foden and Jack Grealish may be drafted back into the lineup, after having been dropped for disciplinary reasons last time out, although the performances of Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez at St. James’ Park may suggest otherwise.
You can read Man City’s predicted lineup here.
Contrary to Guardiola, Rodgers has a mountain of injury worries to contend with.
The trio of Ricardo Pereira, Jamie Vardy and Caglar Soyuncu all seemed to pick up knocks in the Foxes’ midweek defeat to Liverpool, with the former coming away from that Carabao Cup exit looking the most doubtful to feature at the weekend.
They joined a long list of concerns for Leicester’s Boxing Day clash. Jonny Evans, Harvey Barnes and Timothy Castagne are likely to be absent through injury; Daniel Amartey, Hamza Choudhury and Filip Benkovic miss out through Covid-19 issues; and Wesley Fofana and James Justin both represent certain injury-enforced absentees.
You can read Leicester’s predicted lineup here.
The two clubs have met 124 times in the past, with Man City holding the advantage. The Cityzens have come out on top 63 times compared to the Foxes’ 32 victories (29 draws).
Since the visitors’ memorable Premier League triumph in 2016, it’s been Sunday’s hosts that have enjoyed this fixture more. In the past two years, however, things have been very even between the two sides.
Since the start of the 2020/21 season, both teams have won twice in their four encounters – including the above 5-2 belter that went Leicester’s way at the Etihad last term.
There hasn’t been much to separate these two sides when they’ve come face to face in the past couple of campaigns, but they’re enjoying very different seasons this time around.
While City can’t seem to put a foot wrong, Leicester can’t seem to walk in a straight line. And, as a result, the hosts are looking red hot favourites to lift the Premier League crown come the end of the season, while the visitors are severely disappointing in their objective to secure European football for next term.
On paper, City should walk away with a comfortable enough three points from this tie and, considering the ruthless combination of staunch defensive solidity and brilliant creative flair they’ve demonstrated this season, a victory against a dreadfully inconsistent Leicester side should be the outcome here.
Prediction: Man City 2-0 Leicester