Sunderland vs Leicester: Predicted Foxes XI

Injury-ravaged Leicester head to the North-East to face Sunderland on Tuesday evening in an attempt to get their promotion campaign back on track. Here, we predict the Foxes starting XI.

Kelechi Iheanacho. Deserves a start for Tuesday's game?
Kelechi Iheanacho. Deserves a start for Tuesday's game? / Warren Little/GettyImages

Have the wheels come off in Leicester’s pursuit of an immediate return to the top-flight? After three successive league defeats, the Foxes lead over third-placed Leeds is down to five points and by the end of the week they could be out of the two automatic promotion spots in the Championship. Clearly, team selection is crucial. However, Enzo Maresca’s options are limited because of injuries and a suspension. What should he do, and what will he do?

Such is the strength of Leicester’s squad that, despite the absentees, Maresca still has decisions to make. I suspect that, as with the QPR team selection, my preferences will differ in some respects from those of the LCFC boss.

In defence, the continued absence of the suspended Jannik Vestergaard necessitates a replacement. On Saturday, Maresca went with the youngster Ben Nelson. I would have gone with Conor Coady who performed well in the FA Cup clash with Bournemouth. His experience in my judgement is vital for a team that continues to ship soft goals. Given the short turn-around from Saturday’s match, the Leicester boss surely has to go with the former Everton centre back this time. It’s then a question of whether Wout Faes or Nelson partners him. 

There may need to be a change at full back too. Hamza Choudhury played 120 minutes against Bournemouth and the whole game on Saturday. The problem is, with Ricardo Pereira out through injury, there is no obvious replacement. One innovation would be to play Coady at right back or in a back three, or to move James Justin to right back allowing Callum Doyle to step in on the left.  

Midfield is where Leicester have been hardest hit by injuries with Wilfred Ndidi, Pereria and Dennis Praet all out. Maresca even joked that he may have to come out of retirement to help out. The decision not to strengthen here during the last transfer window appears to be a serious mistake. It is likely that the Leicester boss will go with his three remaining midfielders – Harry Winks, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Yunus Akgun. 

 My preference would be to bring in Kelechi Iheanacho to sit just behind the striker, who is likely to be Jamie Vardy on Tuesday night. The two have a history of combining well and there is no reason that they can’t rekindle their partnership. Iheanacho can play in a midfield three replacing Akgun or, more adventurously, in a diamond formation. This would involve only playing with one winger but resting either Stephy Mavididi or  Abdul Fatawu is no bad thing given that the Foxes have a game against Hull coming up fast the following weekend. However, the Leicester boss has, unfortunately, not shown much flexibility during his Leicester career so far and I don’t expect this to change now.

My predicted XI is therefore:

Mads Hermansen 

James Justin

Conor Coady

Wout Faes

Callum Doyle

Harry Winks

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

Yunus Akgun

Abdul Fatawu

Jamie Vardy

Stephy Mavididi