Written by Damian Kayat for Hollywoodbets.
Leicester City v West Ham United | Sunday 17 April | King Power Stadium | 14:30
Claudio Ranieri’s post-match routine of bewildered contrition has actually started to get slightly annoying. Yes, we get it Claudio, your team has qualified for the Champions League. But you can’t fool the entire world into thinking you aren’t odds on favourites to win the title.
West Ham’s exit from the Cup punctuated a physically demanding week for the Hammers. It will be interesting to see what shape this West Ham side will be in this weekend as they aim to regain some momentum in that quest for European football.
This promises to be an excellent distillation of all the things that one has come to love about the Premier League.
To Win (90 Mins)
Leicester 18/20 | Draw 25/10 | West Ham 28/10
Previewing Leicester’s plans for the weekend is akin to being a meteorologist in the Sahara. They will start the exact same eleven and will play in the exact same way. That unwavering adherence to consistency is perhaps their greatest asset. It has allowed partnerships to flourish. Kante and Drinkwater dovetail beautifully while Morgan and Huth have the symbiotic rapport of Lennon and McCarthy. Vardy’s pace stretches sides and allows Mahrez and Albrighton to exploit the open space.
West Ham’s preferred formation sees them play three at the back with Cresswell and Antonio in wider areas. Albrighton and Mahrez will need to be aware of their defensive responsibilities and check those wide forays. This formation, could however, work very much in the Foxes favour. A certain Jamie Vardy has the pace and intelligence to get in behind and threaten from those wide areas. Okazaki will have to be alert to opportunities to get in the box. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ulloa comes on to greater effect in the second half. His aerial abilities will allow him to provide a focal point for Leicester players able to find their way into those wide pockets of space.
West Ham United
I wasn’t surprised that West Ham were eliminated from the F.A Cup. I was however surprised by the nature of their defeat. United dominated the game and it took the Hammers a good seventy-five minutes to revert to the route one football that the game was desperately calling for. We get it; West Ham are not a one-dimensional team anymore. But that doesn’t mean simply forget that you possess Andy Carroll- who by the way scored a hat-trick for you at the weekend utilizing the exact Blitzkrieg tactics that the game screamed out for.
Huth and Morgan will be better equipped to deal with Carroll; West Ham are going to have to mix it up this weekend. Payet’s ability to control the tempo of the game will be severely tested by arch-destructor Kante. Despite having an amazing season thus far, Mark Noble may be left slightly frazzled trying to compete with Kante and Drinkwater for midfield supremacy. I’m sure that this Gallic feud could prove critical in determining the tempo of the game. Bilic will also be concerned that his preferred back three could be exposed in the wider areas by Vardy.
Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double: Draw-Leicester 37/10
West Ham have had an excellent season and will provide stubborn resistance for the Foxes in the first half, potentially taking them 0-0 or 1-1 to the break. However, West Ham’s midweek fixture will have an effect on the dynamic of the match in the latter stages, especially considering Leicester’s penchant for late heroics.