Weblog: The football punter

United ready to hit the right notes at Leicester

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 7.45pm

Saturday night's all right for primetime football according to Premier League bosses and Jose Mourinho's Manchester United should hit the right notes against Leicester.

United are doing what they can to maintain a challenge at the top of the table and can make it three successive league wins.

Psychologically, both teams have to recover from midweek League Cup exits although the physical strain should be manageable after numerous first-choice players were rested.

Claude Puel made seven changes to the Leicester team for Tuesday's quarter-final at home Manchester City and watched in frustration as his players succumbed in a shootout.

It felt like a missed opportunity for the Foxes and their frustration must have grown 24 hours later when their conquerors were handed a semi-final draw against Bristol City.

Opportunities to reach a major final do not come along often for clubs of Leicester's size and they would certainly have had a better chance against City had key attacking players Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Demarai Gray been used from the start.

United had to digest the disappointment of their 2-1 loss at Bristol City on Wednesday but they have the Champions League knockout stages to look forward to, and are still going well enough in the league.

The Red Devils' loss to City felt like a defining moment in the title race. However, United have done well to steady the ship.

They have been below par in recent league victories at home to Bournemouth (1-0) and away to West Brom (2-1) but showed the necessary mental strength to win the games and keep City up to their work.

United will be stronger for the contest at Leicester with Paul Pogba back in the fold after his three-game ban.

Pogba returned to action against Bristol City and was not at his best but he played the full match and should be fitter and sharper for the experience.

Mourinho will have to use his squad over the busy Christmas period but has already confirmed that his first-choice players will return to action for this clash.

It is a time of the year when results rather than performances are all important and there aren't many better managers than Mourinho at keeping the players focused on the task in hand.

Leicester are one of the more dangerous opponents outside of the big six and they have been extremely impressive under Puel, who has lifted them from 18th to eighth in just two months at the helm.

However, last Saturday's 3-0 loss at home to Crystal Palace was a reality check, showing how they can struggle against a slick, counter-attacking side.

They are likely to have similar problems against pacy United, who look decent value at a shade of odds-on to get the away fans rocking.

Manchester United

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