The FourFourTwo Preview: Stoke vs Leicester
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Two Citys looking to stabilise.
- Man City 0-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 3-0 Portsmouth (LC)
- Hull 1-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 0-1 Villa (Prem)
- Freiburg 1-1 Stoke (F)
- Leicester 1-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Leicester 0-1 Shrewsbury (LC)
- Chelsea 2-0 Leicester (Prem)
- Leicester 2-2 Everton (Prem)
- Leicester 1-0 Werder Bremen (F)
Funny how things can change. Not so long ago, Leicester were a side languishing in the doldrums; once a Premier League force with a fondness for ruffling feathers in the upper echelons of the top flight, the Foxes dropped down the English standings like a stone.
Indeed, their lowest moment came at the Britannia Stadium on a grey May afternoon in 2008, when they suffered relegation to League One after a goalless draw in the Potteries. On the same day, Stoke won promotion to the Premier League.
Talk about a turnaround. Following their promotion last season, Nigel Pearson's team are enjoying a return to the top flight, having taken impressive points from Arsenal and Everton's visits to the King Power Stadium. Their opening three fixtures, which also included a defeat to Chelsea, could be considered a baptism of fire.
Elsewhere, esteemed Argentine midfielder and one-time Champions League winner Esteban Cambiasso joined following his release from Inter Milan, with much anticipation surrounding his potential debut here. Meanwhile - count 'em - nine players featured for their countries in the recent international break.
Life won't be easy against a Stoke side with some impressive scalps of their own, however.
Mark Hughes' men delivered the shock of the season so far (in the league anyway; MK Dons' thrashing of United in the League Cup takes the overall accolade) when they recently defeated a Manchester City side burning with title-winning ambition.
They've also done much to shake their tag as perennial spoilers by playing some relatively easy-on-the eye football. Mame Biram Diouf's spectacular individual effort, which took him three quarters of the pitch on a side-winding run to seal the win over City, will live long in the memory.
Truth is, Hughes will be more warmed by the points currently on the board – four from nine represents a steady start. A win here will give them a platform from which to build.
For Leicester, Matty James could make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a shin injury. Cambiasso came through 90 minutes of friendly action unscathed (and with a goal) and is expected to make his debut. First appearances might also arrive for Danny Simpson, Tom Lawrence and Nick Powell.
Peter Odemwingie picked up a knee injury during Stoke's 1-0 win at the Etihad, and is sidelined for a lengthy period with surgery necessary.
Key battle: N'Zonzi vs Cambiasso
Cambiasso is a midfielder with class in abundance. Arriving at Leicester and the Premier League at the relatively advanced age of 34, it's reckoned that his guile and experience could bring much creativity and calm to a side looking to reestablish its position in the top flight.
How he deals with his midfield duel against Steven N'Zonzi will be key here. The Stoke midfielder works as a defensive screen for Hughes' back four, and will have to use all of his smarts if he's to prevent the Argentine from enjoying an immediate impact in England.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Stoke 2-1 Leicester (FAC, Jan 14)
- Stoke 0-0 Leicester (Ch, May 08)
- Leicester 1-1 Stoke (Ch, Sep 07)
- Stoke 4-2 Leicester (Ch, Mar 07)
- Leicester 2-1 Stoke (Ch, Oct 06)
Despite Stoke's impressive victory against Man City, Hughes has been left rueing Odemwingie's crocking. "It's a significant injury and unfortunately it's a long-term one, but Peter has a great attitude to work and life in general," said Hughes. "We'll miss him around the place. He'll do his rehab here so we'll see him in the dressing rooms and around the building, but we'll really miss him out on the training field where he's a big character."
Pearson, meanwhile, has been able to reflect on a positive start to the campaign in which his players have adapted to the style of play in the Premier League: "We’ve shown a level of discipline which is going to be important moving forward because every game that you play at this level is very, very tough," he said. "We’ve shown that we’ve got resilience, but we’ve got capabilities as well in terms of our quality. We showed an understanding of how to limit quality opponents to few real chances."
Facts and figures
- 0 of the last 10 clashes between the Potters and the Foxes have been won by the away side (6 home wins, 4 draws).
- The Foxes have blocked 25 opposition shots so far this season, at least 10 more than any other team in the Premier League.
- Stoke are the only Premier League side yet to net in the first half in 2014/15.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Stoke to springboard on from their win against City. 2-1.