Leicester City will be looking to continue their improbable Premier League title charge when they take on West Ham United at the King Power Stadium this weekend (1.30pm Sunday, Sky Sports 1).
A 2-0 victory over Sunderland last weekend maintained Leicester’s seven-point gap at the top of the table. With Tottenham Hotspur’s meeting with Stoke City not taking place until Monday night, the Foxes have the opportunity to move 10pts clear at the summit with victory on Sunday. Their defensive resolve and solidity looks set to carry them over the line, with the table-toppers again extremely difficult to break down at the Stadium of Light last time out. West Ham may attempt to cede possession and hit Leicester on the counter-attack, but Claudio Ranieri’s (pictured) charges are always very patient and happy to sit deep and wait for their chance on the break.
West Ham also need a win to keep their push for the Champions League places alive, with Slaven Bilic’s men currently five points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who face a trip to Chelsea this weekend. Defeat to Manchester United in the pair’s FA Cup quarter-final replay on Wednesday means the Premier League is now West Ham’s only focus, with a spot in the top four starting to look unlikely but nevertheless still very much attainable with six games of the season remaining. West Ham will need to keep things tighter at the back on Saturday if they are to leave the King Power with a positive result, but they do have the firepower to cause any team in the division problems.
Leicester have no injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s encounter, with Ranieri set to name the same starting XI for the sixth Premier League game in a row. Leonardo Ulloa is likely to start on the substitutes’ bench but will be introduced by the Italian if his side need a goal, with the penalty-box presence offered by the Argentine often a useful alternative if opponents are successfully denying Jamie Vardy space in behind. PFA Player of the Year nominees Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Vardy will all be keen to stake their respective claims for the award, although the focus of all three players will undoubtedly be on securing another three points as Leicester attempt to take a giant step closer to pulling off what would be a truly extraordinary title triumph.
Bilic, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon the services of Diafra Sakho (knee), Sam Byram (muscular) and Carl Jenkinson (knee), although the former duo could return in time for West Ham’s rearranged clash with Watford at Upton Park on Wednesday night. Andy Carroll is likely to be given the nod up front after his recent hot streak in front of goal, with Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet tasked with creating and full-backs Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell with delivering crosses towards the target man. Winston Reid should be back at centre-half after missing the FA Cup replay against Manchester United, with Angelo Ogbonna likely to be his partner in the heart of the Hammers’ backline.
Vardy’s last-minute strike against Sunderland was the only thing that prevented a fifth successive 1-0 victory for the Foxes, and it is that scoreline that is worth backing this weekend. Leicester have kept 10 clean sheets in 14 matches in 2016 and have what it takes to keep out a West Ham side who do find the back of the net with regularity, while the league leaders’ clinical edge at the other end should see them beat Adrian on at least one occasion. Another tempting wager is for fewer than 2.5 goals to be scored, a bet that would have paid out in six of Leicester’s last seven outings. So these are our preview’s betting tips: