Leicester City vs. Manchester United Champions League Decider Preview

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PREVIEW: Leicester City vs. Manchester United

DATE: Sunday 26th July 2020 4pm

VENUE: King Power Stadium

COMPETITION: Premier League

CHANNEL: SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT

OFFICIAL: Martin Atkinson

 

PREMIER LEAGUE FORM

Leicester City – WDLWL

Manchester United – WWDWD

 

The Situation

The Champions League race has been the highlight of the season in the absence of any competitive title race, and it has come down to the final day split between three teams with their own journeys to tell. Manchester United will start Sunday from third place and is the highest they’ve been since September. United’s opponents for Sunday, Leicester, are the complete opposite as they’ve occupied the top four for the majority of the season. Transfer banned Chelsea are set for Champions League after a season of many ups and many downs. ‘The Blues’ have actually lost 12 games this season which is the second most in the top half of the Premier League, with only Burnley losing more (13).

 

So, what’s the situation on Sunday?

 

Chelsea go into the final day with an advantage knowing their two rivals are playing one another and have an 80% chance of advancing to the Champions League. A point is all Chelsea need from their home game against Wolves, who have their own Europa League mission. Chelsea know that a loss would end their European journey if Leicester were to get anything out of Man United, but third place is on the minds of the teams as well.

 

Third and Fourth get you Champions League football but finishing third gives the team bragging rights over the fourth placed side, after all the higher finish the better. For Wolves, European football is an almost guarantee as they can only finish as low as seventh but with Tottenham breathing down their neck, they will aim to hold of Mourinho’s men and on the improbability of a monumental 15 goal swing between them and Leicester, Wolves would go 5th. It’s worth noting that Arsenal can steal the European spot from seventh if they can win the FA Cup.

 

The UCL situation intensives with Man United taking the trip down to Leicester knowing this game is a cup final where the winner gets Champions League football. A draw would be enough to keep United in the top 4 and will only be enough for Leicester if Chelsea were to lose. A United win would not only confirm Champions League football for ‘The Red Devils’ but will also secure third if a 15+ goal swing with Chelsea is avoided. This will also cost Leicester top 4. A Leicester win would confirm they go above United into the top 4 and United will only reach the big time by defeat if Chelsea are also beaten. A United loss and Chelsea draw will be enough to knock the Manchester club out of the top 4 on the final day.

 

Two massive games with massive importance for these three clubs. The Champions League race couldn’t have a more dramatic conclusion.

 

Last Meeting

14th September 2019 was when Man United welcomed Leicester City to Old Trafford and the game saw Leicester’s unbeaten start end and Man United win their first game in three.

 

The game itself wasn’t one filled with entertainment and the only goal of the game came just eight minutes in from the penalty spot courtesy of Marcus Rashford. That was basically all to the game, if you discounted the hostile atmosphere surrounding former ‘Foxes’ man Harry Maguire.

 

I can 100% guarantee this game will be more of a thrill show than this previous encounter and there will be way more on the line. Nerves already kicking in.

 

Manchester United Team News

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed in his presser that Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe remains on the injury list and Luke Shaw is still a doubt for the game with the Norwegian saying that we will have to wait and see for Sunday. The rest of the team is without injury however the amount of games they have played over the past month will play on their bodies for sure.

 

Formation

It’s going to be a back five isn’t it? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managing a game where a draw takes you to top 4 and potential knock you opponents out? Yep it’s a back five. United need to just play their game and continue with the 4-3-3 that has given us empathic wins in the past. If I load up twitter to see five at the back on Sunday, I will be devastating. Come on Ole, show some cojones.

VERDICT: 4-3-3

 

Goalkeeper

De Gea is the living embodiment of the ‘Hokey Cokey’. He’s in, then out, in, out and he does shake it about quite a lot. Romero is a great keeper but he is a second choice and despite being filled with calamities head to toe, De Gea can win a game with his reflex shot stopping ability and if Vardy is running through on goal one on one, the Spaniard is the one you want to stop that run from turning into a goal.

VERDICT: David De Gea

 

Defence

In my opinion, Aaron Wan Bissaka is the Man United Player of the Season. His post-lockdown form hasn’t shone him in the best light but from August to March, AWB has been consistently performing well in that right back. Despite his form, I would still play our best right back in our most important game. A running theme throughout this line-up for sure.

 

A game like this calls for a true captain but we know Maguire isn’t showing captain traits. As a centre back, the Englishman is inconsistent but needs to start to find his feet more frequently. United’s scarce centre back options will call for signings in the summer but for now we need Maguire to start against his former side and for once, show us all that he is indeed the Manchester United Football Club captain.

 

Victor Lindelöf needs to start against Leicester. Bailly will be back from his cup concussion but Lindelöf is extremely underrated and apart from the odd mistake here and then, Victor is a solid defensive option. The pace of Vardy may cause an issue, but the Swedish is good on the ball so can help United start attacks and shouldn’t give Leicester’s main man much opening.

 

All or Nothing. That’s what this match essentially is. All for one and nothing for the other. Solskjaer has been speaking his aspirations into existence and advocating the risky United football is back so that’s why we should risk the doubtful Luke Shaw. Brandon Williams as an alternative for Shaw is vulnerable defensively and with the skill and pace of Leicester’s frontline, Shaw’s defensive capabilities are far superior to that’s of Williams. This can be a one off for Shaw as Ole can rest him in the Europa League ahead of the quick turnaround for the new season.

VERDICT: Aaron Wan Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelöf, Luke Shaw

 

Midfield

After singing his praises in the last preview, Nemanja Matic embarrassed me on Wednesday against West Ham. It wasn’t his finest hour and a half in a red shirt and his lack of fluidity resulted in a lack of flow throughout the whole team. In the West Ham ups and downs article, I touched on Matic being the conductor for ‘The Red Devils’ and his game dictates United’s overall play. That was evident against both Chelsea and West Ham so here’s hoping the Serbian can rediscover that Matic Magic and help us get over the Champions League qualification line.

 

Paul Pogba’s name has been tattooed all over the papers and in people’s mouths since Wednesday due to his rookie mistake that led to ‘The Hammers’ penalty. The Frenchman has been victim to some fair and some unfair criticism over recent years, but no one can doubt his ability on the pitch. It’s that ability we need to see against Leicester on Sunday and if Pogba brings that talent to the King Power, then I have faith that United can not only secure Champions League football but also the third spot.

 

To conclude the midfield, it has to be the man, the myth, the legend, Bruno Fernandes. His January signing is the reason United are even in contention for Top Four on the final day and everything will come full circle if Bruno was the one to win it for us against Leicester and we all like full circles. He is the very definition on undroppable, if that’s a word, and despite his less than ideal form in this current moment he can still change any game he plays. Without Fernandes, United would not fill me with confidence on Sunday but Bruno will know the importance of this game hence why I’m slightly more optimistic. I’m still code browning it though.

VERDICT: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes

 

Attack

The whole world and their dog knew of Mason Greenwood’s talent before lockdown, but he has proven just why he is being hailed as the best teenager in world football since the restart. When an 18-year-old scores winners and equalisers for United on the regular you know you’ve got a player on your hands. The mentality of the kid is phenomenal and the passion and dedication he shows every time he dons the United shirt makes him a definite starter against Leicester. That sort of player who knows all about the club is a player that can win big games like this.

 

As Ronan Keating says, “Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it” and Marcus Rashford is riding a footballing one since the restart. His inconsistent form has led to many questioning his involvement in the first team, but I think that is utter craziness. Rashford’s linkup with Martial has produced the second most goals this season behind Jimenez and Traore of Wolves. That’s more than Aguero and De Bruyne and any Liverpool combination. That statistic isn’t to be easily dismissed, and when Marcus is not scoring, he’s assisting and when he’s not assisting, he’s usually scoring. You can’t bench a sleeping giant like that in the biggest game for United in the last three years. Not to mention he’s another player who knows the meaning of the club. Rashford starts.

 

Martial has had his best season in a United shirt and that is thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who seems to have got the best out of the Frenchman. Tony is finally fulfilling his enormous potential he came to Manchester with. Give him the service and he can turn it into goals and that’s the sort of player United have been crying out for. You need to keep a hungry striker like Martial in the team for him to keep firing.

VERDICT: Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Leicester City Team News

Leicester City have major hits to their squad for this Champions League decider which takes the advantage to Man United for sure.

 

Firstly, ‘The Foxes’ are without top central defender Caglar Soyuncu due to suspension following his red card received in their 4-1 defeat to Bournemouth. This will be a big miss as the Turkish international has been one of the best defenders in the league this season.

 

The injury list for Rodgers’s men is extensive with names like Daniel Amartey and Marc Albrighton on it, despite Brendan hinting at a possible Albrighton return for the final day. Portuguese full back Ricardo Pereira will also miss the final game due to injury as well as fellow full backs Christian Fuchs and English superstar Ben Chilwell. The final injury comes in James Maddison, who has been linked to the red side of Manchester, who sustained his injury at Everton after coming off the bench.

 

To say Leicester have an injury hit squad would be an understatement of sorts so there really is no excuse for ‘The Red Devils’ on Sunday.

 

The predicted line-up for Leicester can be found below:

Prediction

The temptation to dodge the prediction part of the preview was almost too much but I’m going for it. This game is impossible to predict with so many layers to pick apart. My reserved side is coming out though and I’m going to resist saying a win and go with a 1-1 draw. I just don’t have faith this team will get the job done proper but at the same time, I don’t see an ‘L’ being applied to the column.

VERDICT: Leicester City 1-1 Manchester United

 

How you feeling for this Champions League decider? Any thoughts, please leave below.

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