Sunderland v Leicester – Stadium of Light at 13:30 live on Sky Sports 1
Relegation threatened Sunderland host table toppers Leicester on Sunday afternoon, in a match which will have huge implications for both teams final standing, in the Premier League.
Sam Allardyce has had a tough time in orchestrating Sunderland’s escape from the drop and with this being the first of four remaining, very tough home matches, he has to see any points picked up at the Stadium of Light from now on as a real bonus.
After a rocky start to life back in the North East, big Sam has at least made the Black Cats a little more difficult to beat. Since the turn of the year, they have only lost three of twelve Premier League matches.
But, with just three wins over that same period, they have still not been able to drag themselves clear of the danger zone. Off field issues with the likes of Adam Johnson and Emmanuel Eboue have not helped his plans, but encouraging signs from Patrick van Aanholt, Wahbi Khazri and Jermain Defoe has kept their survival hopes alive.
Back in February, Allardyce’s team were able to overcome Manchester United 2-1, in what was their best performance of the season. Unfortunately, for some reason that victory did not galvanise the team as you might expect and since then, they drawn four and lost one of their five subsequent fixtures.
Visitors Leicester have still not awoken from their Premier League dream, currently sitting seven points clear of second place Tottenham, the Foxes now just need 12 points to guarantee the title and having started the season as 5000-1 rank outsiders, that would be one of the greatest achievements in sporting history.
Their form coming into this match is excellent, as it has been all season long. They have won six, drawn one and lost one of their last eight league games and that loss came away at Arsenal, where they were holding the Gunners 1-1 with only 10 players, until the dying seconds of the match.
Leicester’s away record is virtually as good as their home record and against teams in the bottom six they have been ruthless, with just the 1-1 draw at Aston Villa blotting their copy book of wins.
If there are a couple of chinks in their armour, the first is that they have not been involved with a Premier League title race before and as much as they say, there is no pressure on them, the closer they get to the title, the more there will be to get over the finishing line.
The second is that, they are not the free scoring side of earlier in the season. They have only scored two or more goals in 4 of their 13 league games in 2016, however a 1-0 win is still worth three points and they have racked up five of those in their last six matches.
Sunderland have had some success at home against top six clubs, but with the bookies again undervaluing the Foxes based on my model, I have to be backing Leicester again this weekend.
Some people have seen Leicester’s goal tally drop away and claim this shows that they struggle against teams that sit back and defend, but they have still managed to grind out victories as champions often do at this stage of the season.
Plus, with Sunderland needing to start winning games instead of drawing them, this could be a more open contest than you might expect. This should play into the Foxes hands and although I do think they will drop points again this season, I hope it will not be this weekend!
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Leicester City -0.25 at 1.93
Prices correct at the time of writing.
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