The form of these two sides has flipped in the last few months. Post-Christmas, Newcastle continued their climb away from the foot of the table by collecting results against City, Cardiff, Wolves, Huddersfield and Burnley.
Their run dug Mike Ashley out of the mire once again – maybe they can get by with 16 players for the whole of next season.
In the last couple of months though the results have tailed off. They’ve just one win in the last five and have lost three of those. If that run continues they could slide back into the relegation scrap, though Fulham on the last day of the season ought to act as a safety valve if Rafa’s side go winless from here until then.
They’re five points short of the 40 point mark ahead of this.
Leicester have found their groove in the same span of games. Claude Puel was cleared out at the end of February after a 4-1 defeat to Palace, and Brendan Rodgers’ Premier League return has seen them lose just once in their last six. They’ve won the other five and look to building confidence.
They have also benefited from an easier run of fixtures. Newcastle look like another welcome guest to the Midlands club. A win in this would certainly fit the pattern recently, with the Foxes having brushed past Brighton, Burnley, Bournemouth, Fulham and Huddersfield in those five wins. They should collect a sixth at 4/6.
While the home side have started winning more games, they’re still conceding goals. They’ve just one clean sheet in their last 15 league games. It did come in their most recent home game versus Bournemouth, but trends like that don’t cease overnight.
They’ve also allowed goals against Fulham and Huddersfield in their recent upturn, two of the less threatening attacks in the league, so Newcastle, despite their recent tendency to draw a blank, will surely expect to cause some problems for their hosts.
Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham have kept the Magpies scoreless in three of their last six journeys away from the North East, but Bournemouth, Wolves and Chelsea allowed goals in the other three, making the 20/23 available on Both Teams to Score look generous given Leicester’s recent run.
Rodgers’ team have not been shut out since he arrived, and have scored six goals in their 12 league games, including four in their last game. Both Teams to Score is the bet.
The Vardy party is back and bouncing under Brendan Rodgers too. Claude Puel sucked the life from the cheeky star in the closing months of his tenure at the King Power Stadium. In his last eight appearances under the Frenchman, the tearaway forward netted just twice, but since Wee Brendan skipped Celtic Park there’s been no stopping the ex-England striker.
Eight goals in seven games says everything about what the change has meant for him.
Almost as encouraging, he now gets to play Newcastle, whose defence has proved more than accommodating in the past when the 32-year-old has lined up against them. He’s scored three times and threw in an assist as well the last five times the Foxes have tangled with the Tynesiders.
Given Newcastle’s defensive creakiness, he’s got to fancy his chances of adding another one at least to his record on Friday night. The fact that he’s scored the last goal in three of the last four games and has the pace to torment tired defenders makes the last goalscorer market appeal more than others. Back Vardy to finish the scoring at 11/4.
*All odds correct at time of posting