Its Monday night football for Leicester City this weekend, as they welcome fellow East Midlands side Nottingham Forest to the King Power stadium for the first time since 2013.
Both sides have struggled for form in the opening weeks of the season. Steve Coopers Nottingham Forest side have lost four consecutive fixtures in the Premier League, only Leicester City have a worse record – losing six of their first seven league games.
It’s no secret that the Foxes didn’t have the financial resources to back Brendan Rodgers in the summer transfer window, but his side still possess enough quality to be well above the bottom three. Because of their standing in the league, Rodger’s position at Leicester is being scrutinised and a defeat against Nottingham Forest could see him out the door at the King Power.
Almost a polar opposite to Leicester’s quiet window, Forest added a staggering 22 new faces to make them a competitive side in the Premier League. Injuries have taken their toll, but it’s taking far too long for players to adjust to life in the top flight – with questions being asked about individual performances and the tactics being used.
There is a sense of unease on the banks of the Trent, with pressure on both players and staff to start picking up results. You’ll like to think Cooper is safe at Forest, but after seeing Evangelos Marinakis part ways with Carlos Corberan at sister club Olympiacos just six weeks into the job, you can’t be too sure.
It’s not quite an East Midlands derby, but this Monday night fixture could be far bigger, with both managers on thin ice at their respective clubs.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Venue: King Power Stadium, Leicester.
Date: Monday, 3rd October.
Time: 20:00pm BST.
Referee: Robert Jones.
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Marc Perry.
Fourth official: Graham Scott.
VAR: Chris Kavanagh.
Assistant VAR: Simon Bennett.
Wilfred Ndidi, who had a shortened international break so he could focus on regaining fitness, is fit to play on Monday. He’s joined by Dennis Praet who should also be available after being monitored for the past couple of weeks.
Parson Daka is a doubt after picking up a fever which could see Jamie Vardy start his first game in over a month.
There were some promising signs that Moussa Niakhate could return for the visitors, after being called up for international duty with Senegal. The summer signing could still be a doubt for Monday night’s fixture, however, with Steve Cooper stating; “We are as we were before (the international break), it’s just Scott (McKenna) who is a doubt.”
It seems like both Niakhate and Orel Mangala are nearing a return to fitness, but Monday night might be too soon for the pair to feature. With Scott McKenna a doubt after withdrawing from the Scotland National Team, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Niakhate make the bench – even if he doesn’t end up on the pitch.
Leicester City have scored the joint most goals in the bottom half of the table, but they’ve also conceded the most goals in the league. Their lack of defensive structure, and Danny Ward’s inability to keep the ball out of the net is the biggest factor as why the Foxes are in the bottom three. It’s the same for Nottingham Forest, who like the hosts, have conceded 14 goals in their past four fixtures – but the Reds aren’t as lethal in front of goal, with their six strikes being one of the worst returns in the division.
This is game is going to be two god-awful defences, against two teams who are desperate to kick start their season – this is set up to be an absolute goal fest.
One thing that still remains unclear is how Nottingham Forest are going to approach the game. For the past couple of games, it’s been the same system, same tactics and same personnel, and it hasn’t worked. The Reds look to play the ball out from the back, using Neco Williams or another outlet to move the possession downfield before moving into dangerous positions – but even against opponents of similar quality the Reds have been outclassed and outplayed.
Cooper needs to look at bringing in some of the new blood. After an impressive international break, Remo Freuler should be allowed to pull the strings in midfield, and it would be great to see Nigerian duo Taiwo Awoniyi and Emmanuel Dennis leading the line – whether that be in a strike partnership, or a front three. With McKenna side-lined, the backline could also look different. Loic Bade could be in line for his Forest debut, and the Reds could shift to a four-at-the-back system, which would likely see the team switch from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 – although that would mean having to play the natural wing-backs as full-backs rather than their usual positions.
It’s hard to pick anything good about Leicester’s season other than James Maddison. The England international is having underrated and is quietly having an excellent season for the underperforming Foxes. With their lack of clinical nature from the attackers, Maddison is quickly becoming the talisman on Rodgers’ side.
Leicester needs to do something about their front line. So far this season, Jamie Vardy, Patson Daka and Kelechi Iheanacho have all taken turns to start up top, but only have two goals between them. Vardy is the only one without a goal this campaign, but he could flourish on Monday night. He might be 35, but he’s still one of the best forwards in the league and could be a handful for this Forest backline.
Chances are, Forest are going to play defenders with minimal experience playing at the top level and this is something Vardy could exploit – tormenting and frustrating any of the Forest defenders.
The biggest issue for the hosts is a relatively obvious one, they don’t appear to have any good goalkeepers. Danny Ward, their current number one has only ever been a backup in the top flight and looks like a small fish in a big pond when he starts for the Foxes. It’s clear Leicester weren’t prepared for the departure of Kasper Schmeichel and now they’re paying the consequences. Could it be time for Alex Smithies or Daniel Iversen to prove themselves between the sticks?
Leicester City – Jamie Vardy
I’m putting a lot on the line by saying Vardy here as he could end up not even starting. The obvious choice would be to go for James Maddison, but Leicester are in dire need of some form from their attackers and Vardy could be the one to step up. On his day he’s one of the better forwards in the league and if he can start performing Leicester will quickly climb the table. That climb could start on Monday.
Nottingham Forest – Lewis O’Brien
Lewis O’Brien has been Nottingham Forest’s best player this season, and he hasn’t even started the past two games. The midfielder has bags of energy and will help Forest control the midfield with his endless work rate. The Reds have been non-existent in the middle of the park in recent weeks and it’s no coincidence it happened when O’Brien wasn’t starting. If he doesn’t start on Monday Forest will follow similar trends of past games and find themselves on the back foot and limited by the opponents – he needs to start.
Leicester City predicted lineup vs Nottingham Forest: Ward, Justin, Faes, Evans, Castagne, Ndidi, Barnes, Dewsbury-Hall, Tielemans, Maddison, Vardy.
Nottingham Forest predicted lineup vs Leicester City: Henderson, Lodi, Bade, Boly, Worrall, Williams, O’Brien, Freuler, Lingard, Gibbs-White, Awoniyi.