Five Talking Points - Leicester City

Five Talking Points


The Official Website discusses the major subjects ahead of Saturday's visit of Premier League champions Leicester City to London Stadium...


1. An ‘important game’

While West Ham United versus Leicester City might appear to be a mid-table battle between two clubs with little to play for, that could not be farther from the truth.

The Hammers are seeking to arrest a recent slide that has seen them winless in their last four Premier League matches, while the Foxes are seeking to continue a renaissance that has seen them climb away from the relegation zone.

On 33 points, nine clear of the bottom three, West Ham probably need two wins from their final ten games to be assured of safety, but mere survival is not enough to satisfy the Board, manager Slaven Bilic, his squad or the Claret and Blue Army.

For Leicester, staying up would be acceptable after their early-season implosion, but new manager Craig Shakespeare and his squad are likely playing for their futures at the King Power Stadium.

The stage is set for what Bilic and Joint-Chairman David Sullivan have rightly called an ‘important game’ for both clubs.


2. Are the old Leicester back?

Leicester City
It certainly looks like it. Leicester have won their last three matches, all at the King Power Stadium, playing the brand of aggressive, counter-attacking football that saw them lift the Premier League trophy last May.

The Foxes have beaten Liverpool and Hull City in the Premier League – both 3-1 – before upsetting the odds to defeat Sevilla 2-0 in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg tie to complete an unlikely 3-2 aggregate victory.

Those results were achieved despite Leicester enjoying an average possession percentage of just 36.33 per cent.

While they had the ball a little more than a third of the time, Craig Shakespeare’s side have not only outscored their opponents 8-2, but they have also outshot them 44-38.


3. Desire

West Ham United’s players were angry with their own performance in last Saturday’s 3-2 Premier League defeat at AFC Bournemouth – and rightly so.

Despite seeing the Cherries miss two penalties, the Hammers produced comfortably their worst display in two months to go down to a defeat.

The players spoke of Bournemouth wanting to win so badly that their will saw them do just that. Against a Leicester City team brim full of confidence, pace and desire, the hosts will need to match the Foxes’ commitment if they are not to become the visitors’ first victims on their travels this Premier League season.

At the same time, Slaven Bilic said his players need to learn how to manage a game in the closing stages, having conceded late goals to both West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth in recent weeks. Whatever the scoreline going into the final few minutes on Saturday, the Hammers will need to retain their concentration and discipline until the final whistle.


4. Dylan’s legacy lives on…

DT38 Foundation

Saturday’s game will see awareness raised for the DT38 Foundation, the charity founded in memory of late West Ham United striker Dylan Tombides.

Dylan passed away at the age of 20 in April 2014, and many of the players he lined up alongside on his debut in 2012 have since departed, but the formation of DT38 by his mother Tracy means the Australian’s legacy will continue to live on.

Raising awareness of men’s health issues, including the cancer which ultimately took Dylan’s life, DT38 is a cause which every Hammers fan, male or female, should be aware of.


5. Who replaces Mark Noble?

Captain Mark Noble will miss just his third Premier League match of the season on Saturday, having been absent from the defeats at Tottenham Hotspur (through suspension) and home to Manchester United (he was an unused substitute).

With the skipper unavailable, the likelihood is that Cheikhou Kouyate will move into his preferred midfield role, with either Sam Byram or Havard Nordtveit coming into the starting XI at right-back.

However, Slaven Bilic may revert to 3-5-2, which would mean James Collins, Kouyate or Nordtveit playing as a third centre-half, and either Michail Antonio, Byram or Sofiane Feghouli playing as a right wing-back.

The other selection issue for Bilic is whether he hands Andre Ayew or Robert Snodgrass starting places, which could mean Feghouli drops to the bench.