Leicester City are back at the King Power on Wednesday evening – after an impressive performance on Sunday put them back at the top of the Championship table – for a top of the table clash with high-flying Preston North End . As injuries and suspensions take their toll, and as Enzo Maresca’s rotation strategy becomes clearer, it is now easier to accurately predict the Foxes starting line-up.
At the back, a replacement will be required for Jannik Vestergaard who picked up a fifth yellow card of the season, and therefore a one match ban, in the victory over Blackburn on Sunday. The Danish centre back usually complains to referees when penalised but this time his protest seemed justified. There was very little contact with the Rovers player who made the most of the opportunity for a dangerous free kick as he raced towards the penalty area. That, of course, is now water under the bridge.
Maresca has two other centre backs in his squad to call upon for the game against Preston on Wednesday night – Harry Souttar and Conor Coady. Even though the Australian international is a good player and has been unlucky to be left in the cold, it is all but certain that the Leicester boss will plump for the latter option. A more interesting question is whether Vestergaard comes back in for the weekend’s encounter with Stoke City. There is no doubt that had Coady been fit he would have been first choice this season, but Vestergaard has been a revelation and it will be very difficult to leave him out.
The other three defenders pick themselves. The injury to Callum Doyle means that James Justin will get another run out at left back. The pre-season departures of Victor Kristiansen and Luke Thomas have left the Foxes short in this position and it is very important that Justin stays fit. Wout Faes and Ricardo Pereira are likely to complete the back four. Hamza Choudhury is an outside bet to come in for Pereira, as he did against Norwich, but Maresca will probably resist rotation on this occasion.
In midfield, the first-choice players, given that Dennis Praet is a long-term injury casualty, are Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Wilfred Ndidi and Harry Winks. All three started on Sunday so rotation is a possibility – Choudhury for Winks and/or Cesare Casadei for Ndidi – but my bet is that Maresca will begin the game with his top three available midfielders.
Up front, rotation is all but certain. It has been suggested elsewhere that the three front players for the Foxes on Wednesday will be Yunus Akgun, Jamie Vardy and Adbul Fatawu, with Stephy Mavididi and Kelechi Iheanacho missing out. However, it is extremely unlikely that Vardy will play his second match in four days so Iheanacho, we think, will start. Mavididi had a quiet game on Sunday so it is not inconceivable that he is benched for this game. However, with McAteer out of the reckoning, there is a greater possibility that Fatawu, a young player, will be rested. This leaves Mavididi and Akgun as our predicted wide starters. Our predicted Leicester starting XI is:
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