Leicester vs Stoke – Premier League preview and team news

ranieri

Leicester City will be hoping to claim their first home win in the Premier League since mid-December, but face a tough encounter against a Stoke City side which is setting its sights on qualifying for Europe.

A draw away to bottom club Aston Villa definitely went down as a missed opportunity for the Foxes, especially as Riyad Mahrez had the chance to put them in a commanding position but saw his tame penalty kept out by goalkeeper Mark Bunn. That failure served to rouse the home supporters and instigate something of a change in momentum, but on the positive side the result was enough to see the remain level on points with leaders Arsenal.

Manager Claudio Ranieri has got of his decisions right this season, but substituting Shinji Okazaki at Villa Park was a questionable one as the Japan international had been their best player up until that point. As for this match, it will be an interesting encounter as both teams like to play on the break and use the intelligent movement of forward players to their advantage, so the hosts will rely on Jamie Vardy to come out on top in his contest with the two in-form Stoke centre-backs.

It has been a tricky run of fixtures for Mark Hughes’ side, so it is to their credit that they currently lie in seventh place in the Premier League, having shown on several occasions that they are more than capable of competing with the top clubs. Their last game against Arsenal could have gone either way as the two goalkeepers emerged with the plaudits, but they competed strongly for the full 90 minutes and came away with the point that their battling performance deserved.

If there was one area in which they could be criticised, it was the lack of pace and tempo in their forward play that made it difficult for Stoke to find any penetration, with the normally classy Bojan Krkic so often being found wanting with the final pass. That was where they missed the presence of Xherdan Shaqiri, who would have offered a sense of unpredictability, but this game may suit their style a little more, particularly given their impressive away record in 2015-16.

The hosts have major doubts over defender Ritchie De Laet, while Matt James and Jeffrey Schlupp are still sidelined.

Shaqiri could return for Stoke, but Marko Arnautovic is a slight doubt with a hamstring problem. Phil Bardsley, Stephen Ireland and Marc Muniesa are all back available.

Last Meeting: Stoke just about edged the meeting between the sides in January 2015, and managed to score the only goal in the second period as Bojan Krkic found the net with low shot from outside the penalty area. They would have won by more if were not for Leicester goalkeeper Ben Hamer, who saved spectacularly from Steven N’Zonzi.

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