Boxing Day fixtures are some of the most eagerly awaited games, with the games and stadiums filled with a festive atmosphere. Fans are out and about in full voice and it adds an extra edge to the games being played out on the pitch. One of the highlight fixtures of Boxing Day 2021 sees league-leaders Manchester City welcome Leicester City at the Etihad.
Man City have been in scintillating form lately, destroying anyone who stands in front of them. They have put up performances worthy of winning a 6th Premier League title, and they will take some stopping, as they now sit at the top with 44 points, 3 points clear of 2nd placed Liverpool. The Citizens beat Newcastle United at the St. James’ Park last weekend, winning 4-0 in a dominant display. They look on course to win again for a second consecutive season, and their quality of football has truly been a level apart for the rest of the teams. They did not take part in the midweek Carabao Cup games, having been knocked out by West Ham United in the Round of 16, giving Pep Guardiola’s men a full week of rest in the middle of a hectic period of football.
City were stunned by Leicester City last season at the Etihad, as the Foxes humiliated the Citizens in a 5-2 drubbing at the Etihad Stadium. However, Man City looks unbeatable right now and the Foxes and Brendan Rodgers will have to come up with something very special to stand any chance of a repeat of last season’s game again on Sunday.
Leicester City were involved in a heated and intense Carabao Cup quarter-final game against Liverpool in the midweek, as they squandered a 3-1 lead and conceded a last-minute equalizer which sent the game to penalties. The Foxes were beaten by Liverpool thereafter, with Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand missing their spot-kicks and sending Leicester crashing out. They will be heartbroken to have lost a game where they looked certain to win after taking a two-goal lead, but some defensive mistakes ultimately cost them. Manager Brendan Rodgers has come under immense pressure now, with the Foxes eliminated from 2 cup competitions in the space of 3 games. The Foxes sit in 9th place in the league as of now, 3 points behind Wolves in 8th, although Leicester have played two games less than Wolves. They will be hoping to get a surprise win at the Etihad and get closer to the top 6 places.
The reverse fixture saw Leicester City completely dominated by Manchester City at the King Power Stadium, although the scoreline says otherwise. Man City attackers lacked the clinical edge in the game as many chances went to waste, but won the game 1-0 thanks to a Bernardo Silva strike. It is predicted to be a tight battle on Sunday, and Leicester City will hope to stun the Citizens again and leave Manchester with all 3 points.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Sunday, 26th December 2021
Time: 3.00 pm BST
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
Assistants: Harry Lennard, Dan Robathan.
Fourth official: Mike Dean.
VAR: Paul Tierney.
Assistant VAR: Scott Ledger.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola dropped £100 million signing Jack Grealish and Academy product Phil Foden from the starting lineup last time out against Newcastle United, citing ‘disciplinary’ reasons. It remains to see if they have earned their place back or are in for another afternoon on the bench. Kyle Walker missed the last two games and is set to return to the squad against Leicester City, and will be expected to start with Joao Cancelo returning to his left-back role. There are no new injury concerns, with only Ferran Torres ruled out. The Spaniard has reportedly agreed to a transfer to FC Barcelona, with both clubs rumored to have reached an agreement on a deal worth €55 million.
Leicester City defenders Wesley Fofana and James Justin are ruled out of the game, having sustained long-term injuries back in August and February respectively. Ricardo Pereira returned back to the squad against Newcastle United last in their last Premier League game and started in the defeat against Liverpool in the midweek. However, he was forced off again after a Liverpool tackle and is likely to make way for Timothy Castagne, who has established himself as the starting right-back in Pereira’s absence. Caglar Soyuncu was taken off in the midweek as well, and there is no news as of yet on how serious his injury is. Jonny Evans is also reportedly facing a hamstring issue and could be ruled out of Sunday’s game. Kelechi Iheanacho and Ademola Lookman both returned to the bench against Liverpool having missed out the last two games through illness, and it remains to see if they can get a start on Sunday.
CAN CITY QUALITY PROVE TO BE HEAVY FOR THE FOXES?
Manchester City, since the arrival of Pep Guardiola, has built up a reputation for playing the attractive and attacking type of football. They have been criticized for their free-spending in the transfer market, but one has to marvel at their scouting department, with almost every transfer ending up a success. Pep has built a team that has no lack of quality anywhere on the pitch, and that has resulted in his team being one of the most superior teams in Europe at the moment. They are clinical in attack, stout in defense, and dominating in the midfield. As a result, City have been title-favorites almost every season for the past few years, and it looks like a trend that is set to continue.
Their attack has come under the spotlight recently, with some coruscating displays. They have scored 17 goals in their last 5 Premier League games, and all this with just one out and out striker. An attack that consists of the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, and Gabriel Jesus has dazzled the world with their displays and they look almost impossible to stop. Pep has played many combinations of the above names together, and every single combination has worked well, bringing results to the table.
Brendan Rodgers and his men have not been in the best of forms this season, and after two consecutive seasons where they finished inside the top 5, they now find themselves a long way off and unlikely to even get into the European spots this season. They come up on Sunday against a Manchester City team which has been vastly better than them this season. The Foxes have won just two of their last seven games, and will have to be a lot better than their current form to stand a chance of winning against Man City. Their defensive mistakes in the midweek will be something Brendan Rodgers will hope they don’t make again and against a blistering Man City attack, will have to be on alert at all times. Stranger things have happened in football, but a blockbuster clash awaits us on Boxing Day, and it will be a one to watch.
Kevin de Bruyne
The Belgian playmaker has had a tough season so far, battling injury and coronavirus, which has limited him to less than 700 minutes in 12 appearances so far in the league. He has scored 4 goals in that period but has lost his place to Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden in recent games. However, his display in the 7-0 drubbing of Leeds United last week was a vintage KDB performance. He was at the center of everything, playing delightful balls, and scored a brace with two thunderous strikes past the hapless Leeds keeper. He looked to have found his groove back again and was excellent against Newcastle United as well, albeit ending the game without a goal contribution. De Bruyne will be expected to start in his advanced midfield role again on Sunday and will hope to improve his tally of goals and assists.
Maddison has found himself in and out of the team since the start of the season but has started each of Leicester’s last six games in all competitions. He has scored 3 goals and assisted 3 in the last 4 Premier League games, and has re-established himself as the first-choice attacking midfielder in the Foxes lineup. An eventful outing in the midweek against Liverpool saw the Englishman assist one goal and score a magnificent goal from 25 yards out to give Leicester a 3-1 lead in the first half. That marked his fourth game in a month in which he has both scored and assisted, showing that he is in really good form right now. Maddison was instrumental in the Foxes’ win against City last season and will be the one to look out from the Leicester team again on Sunday.
Manchester City predicted XI: Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Joao Cancelo; Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne; Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez.
Leicester City predicted XI: Kasper Schmeichel; Timothy Castagne, Jannik Vestergaard, Wilfried Ndidi, Luke Thomas; Youri Tielemans, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hill; Harvey Barnes, James Maddison, Ademola Lookman; Patson Daka.