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Leicester looked in danger of missing out on a Champions League place for the second season running following successive defeats to Manchester City and West Ham, but they appear to have overcome that mini-slump and are now in a very strong position to finish in the top four.
Home victories over West Brom and Crystal Palace in the space of a week have given Leicester a seven-point buffer over fifth-placed West Ham with just five games remaining and it would take a Brendan Rodgers special for them to bottle it now.
Having said that, The Foxes’ final three games of the season are unenviably difficult, and they would be better served wrapping up Champions League qualification by winning their next two games against Southampton and Newcastle.
The Saints, who Leicester beat 1-0 in a drab FA Cup semi-final earlier in April, represent ideal opposition to come up against at the business end of the season. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side seem to have been on autopilot since their win over Liverpool in January and are fortunate that they have amassed enough points to avoid a relegation battle.
Southampton have lost 12 of their last 15 league games since beating Liverpool, picking up just seven points from their last available 45. Defeat to Leicester in the FA Cup effectively brought an end to their season and they could suffer a similar fate on Friday night.
Southampton v Leicester
Friday April 30, 8pm
Sky Sports Premier League/ Main Event
Iheanacho’s revival in the second half of the season has been nothing short of remarkable. The Nigerian forward appeared to be drifting into the unfulfilled potential category following a series of unremarkable seasons, but he has exploded into life over the past two months ever since he rescued a point for the Foxes in a draw at Burnley at the beginning of March.
Since then, Iheanacho has scored 10 goals in nine games in all competitions for Leicester, making him arguably the most in-form striker in the league. His form has perfectly coincided with Jamie Vardy’s poor run in front of goal and he has every chance of extending his excellent recent record against a porous Southampton defence.
Southampton’s defensive record has been scandalously poor since the turn of the year. The Saints have conceded a staggering 39 goals in 16 games in 2021, making the second-worst defensive side in the league behind Championship-bound West Brom.
Leicester, on the other hand, have been leaking goals in recent league games, conceding six in four since the international break and keeping just two clean sheets in their last 10 games.
For all the plaudits that their defence has earned this season, they tend to give plenty of goalscoring opportunities to their opponents and Southampton have the potential to capitalise through Danny Ings and Che Adams.
The FA Cup semi-final between these two sides was understandably a nervous and cagey affair given that neither club has been to a major final in over a decade; this game should be far more open and appealing to the neutral.
Southampton will look to Danny Ings if they are to breach the Leicester defence and the English forward should at least test Kasper Schmeichel on Friday night. Ings has had 24 shots on target in 25 league appearances for Southampton this season – a rate of virtually one every game.
Ings has attempted 50 shots on goal this season at a rate of two per game and can probably expect to at least match that tally against Leicester at St Mary’s. He is good value to hit the target on a few occasions on Friday considering his record in front of goal.
Southampton v Leicester tips
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