Weblog: The football punter

Foxes can continue their excellent run of form

TV: Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 8pm

Pretty much everything Brendan Rodgers touches has turned to gold in his brief stint in the King Power hotseat and the confident Foxes can continue their seventh-place push by seeing off a deflated Newcastle.

Rodgers has guided Leicester to four straight wins and five successes in their last six games as he has breathed new life into the former champions.

Ensuring Leicester become the best of the rest in the Premier League is now his target and three more points can keep Wolves, Everton and Watford at bay.

Certainly the formguide points to a home win and Leicester are going to be a warm order at 8-11. That looks a perfectly acceptable price though given that the Foxes haven’t won 1-0 at home since December 2017, it looks worth taking a risk on Leicester to win and over 1.5 goals.

For that to happen, of course, they need to break through one of the more obdurate top-flight back lines.

Newcastle’s defence is the least porous in the bottom half of the division – they have shipped 43 goals in total, one fewer than Leicester.

But the injury to the excellent Florian Lejeune in last week’s 1-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace means a reshuffle with Benitez discussing the possibility of going four at the back rather than three.

The upshot, however he juggles it, will be 4-5-1 or 5-4-1, a load of bodies behind the ball, the hope that his pacy wide men get chances to launch on the counter and the usual prayer that isolated frontman Salomon Rondon receives some degree of service.

Benitez doesn’t do ambition as a general rule and is unlikely to do at the King Power with his side just five points clear of Cardiff and determined to give away nothing in the pursuit of precious points.

On the road Newcastle have been generally underwhelming all term. They have mustered just a couple of wins – at Burnley and Huddersfield – and their record at the current top ten this season reads played nine, won none, lost six and not a single clean sheet.

Leicester just need to box clever, try not to leave holes when they go forward and continue to get Youri Tielemans and James Maddison on the ball. Jamie Vardy, who has bagged eight goals in his last seven outings, won’t get much room to manoeuvre but Leicester under Rodgers are a bright, attacking unit who will carve out openings.

Another bet to consider is the last goal being scored in the final 15 minutes, which seems to be when Leicester are at their most punishing and Newcastle their most vulnerable.

City have scored 37 per cent of their goals – that’s 15 – from the 75th minute of games onwards, while the Magpies have leaked 15 in that period. Only Burnley and Fulham boast a worst record late in games.

Leicester & over 1.5 goals

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Expert verdict
Liverpool begin their Champions League title defence with a return to the scene of one of the four away defeats they suffered on their way to winning last season’s competition. The Reds were beaten 1-0 at the Stadio San Paolo in the group stage last October and, as the Partenopei have lost three times in their last 19 home fixtures in the competition, their run of six defeats in eight UCL away games is a concern. However, they rarely fail to deliver in the final third, netting in all but four of their last 42 competitive matches.