BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Fernandinho doubtful for City in pivotal clash

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

Manchester City could need another six points to successfully defend their title but they face a tricky fixture against Leicester at the Etihad and look poor value at such cramped odds to get the victory.

Neither of the title contenders have given an inch since Liverpool drew 0-0 at Everton in early March and the general expectation is that both sides will keep on winning.

However, just one surprise result could change everything and it is not fanciful to think that City may be seriously stretched by the Foxes, who are playing as well as any team outside of the top two.

Brendan Rodgers went into Leicester with just over two months of the season remaining but has made an immediate impact and his team still have a slight chance of finishing seventh.

Victories over City and Chelsea are needed to have a chance of overhauling Wolves but the Foxes have beaten both this season – defeating City 2-1 at the King Power Stadium and Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

They are one of the few teams with the tools to cause City problems and have an excellent record against them over the last four seasons – winning three, drawing once and losing three.

Leicester did City a massive favour when securing a well-deserved 1-1 draw at Liverpool in January, becoming only the second team behind the champions to pick up a point at Anfield this season.

And if they play with the same discipline, quality and energy at the Etihad, it could be a tense night.

City have dealt well with pressure for most of the season but even they must have felt a little frustrated when Liverpool sneaked a barely-deserved 3-2 victory at Newcastle on Saturday.

The game always looked like being pivotal for the Reds and they finished out without two of their famous front three because of injuries to Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

However, Jurgen Klopps's side found a way to win and the post-match celebrations highlighted Liverpool's belief that the title race remains in the balance.

Liverpool's win made it 15 league victories on the trot for the top two, who are clearly head and shoulders above anything else in the league.

But pressure can play funny tricks on even the most talented players and there will be plenty on City's shoulders unless they can open up a decisive lead.

They buckled against injury-hit Tottenham in the Champions League, crashing out of a competition they had been favourites to win, after failing to cope with the pace and movement of Heung-Min Son.

The non-selection of Fernandinho was a key element of the drama  – taking away the protection City's defence sorely needed – and there is a possibility of the Brazilian missing out against Leicester.

Playing without Fernandinho at Burnley last time out was not a major issue because there was no genuine pace in the Clarets' attack.

Against Leicester's Jamie Vardy it will be far more dangerous and could lead to Liverpool being thrown a title lifeline.

Recommendation
Draw

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

 

Match in Focus

15:00 Sa 25May SKY

Newport Co v Tranmere

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Newport are unbeaten in 12 matches.
Expert verdict
Michael Flynn’s Newport headed into the playoffs as the fourth tier’s form side, securing seventh spot by finishing the season ten games unbeaten. Tranmere will know all too well about County’s disciplined defensive, having failed to score in both league meetings with them and, even with James Norwood leading the line, they look vulnerable.