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First Team

FA Cup media view: Expert insight on Leicester


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Andoni Iraola’s class of 2024 will be looking to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for only the third time in the club’s history when they host Leicester City on Tuesday (7.30pm kick-off).

Freddie Cox’s ‘Pippins’ achieved the feat in 1956/57, beating powerhouses Wolves and Tottenham before their dream was ended by a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United’s Busby Babes in the last eight.

Following some lean years, which saw the Cherries reach the fifth round just twice in 63 seasons, they progressed to the quarters under Jonathan Woodgate in 2020/21, losing 3-0 to Southampton at Vitality Stadium.

Having been runners-up on four occasions, Leicester finally lifted the famous trophy following a 1-0 win over Chelsea at Wembley in a Covid-interrupted 2020/21 season.

Relegated to the Championship on the final day of last season, the Foxes, Premier League winners in 2015/16, set up a trip to Vitality Stadium after seeing off Millwall and Birmingham City.

Goals from Cesare Casadei, Ricardo Pereira and Tom Cannon earned them a 3-2 win against the Lions in the third round before Jamie Vardy, Yunus Akgun and Dennis Praet were on target in a 3-0 victory over the Blues in the fourth.

Leicester have climbed to the top of the Championship under boss Enzo Maresca, but arrive in Dorset having suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Middlesbrough and Leeds.

Ahead of Tuesday’s clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Rob Tanner who covers the fortunes of the Foxes for The Athletic and also wrote the best-selling book 5000-1 The Leicester City Story, which charted their Premier League title win.


Founded: 1884

Ground: King Power Stadium

Nicknames: The Foxes

Record appearances: Graham Cross – 600 games (1960-76)

Record goalscorer: Arthur Chandler – 273 goals in 419 games

Manager: Enzo Maresca (appointed June 2023)

League position: First (in Championship)

Leading goalscorer: Jamie Vardy (12 in all competitions)

Last game: Leeds United 3 Leicester City 1 (Championship)

afcb.co.uk: Summarise the games against Millwall and Birmingham in the third and fourth rounds?

RT: They played much-changed teams for both games.

Millwall is a hostile place to go but they did a job there and it was very effective.

Birmingham had some really good chances early on but didn’t take them.

Leicester made ten changes for that game and a lot of youngsters were playing. They grew into it and started to take their chances.

It was a bit of a strange game in many respects because Birmingham could have been out of sight before then.

The FA Cup hasn’t been the priority this season. In previous seasons in the Premier League, there would be an aspiration to go all the way to Wembley and to try to win it, like they did in 2021.

All the cup competitions this season have been a bit of a sideshow to the main goal, which is just to get back to the Premier League.

I suspect there will be a lot of changes for the trip to Bournemouth. They have managed to get into this round without playing their strongest side so far.

afcb.co.uk: What significant changes have you noticed under Enzo Maresca (pictured below)?

RT: It’s a possession-based game. They are patient, they move the ball to move the opposition to create space and try to create overloads in midfield, hence the inside full-back coming in.

There will be the two number eights and the holding midfielder, which is normally Harry Winks (pictured above).

Then, the inside full-back comes in to make a four in central areas and that normally outnumbers anybody and all the opposition they faced. They try to push their eights high when they are attacking.

Enzo did a thesis when he was taking his coaching badges on comparisons between football and chess, moving your pieces at the right times, having a strategy and setting traps. That’s his philosophy on the game.

But it still doesn’t mean they can’t be aggressive as well and they are aggressive in their pressing.

It’s been a real change and a real transformation from the way they were playing previously.

For some of the fans, it’s taken a bit of time to adjust because there is still the hangover from the unexpected relegation.

But you cannot argue with the results they’ve had, it’s been phenomenal.

afcb.co.uk: How has Maresca approached the FA Cup in terms of team selection?

RT: There have been lots of changes for the games.

A few of the youngsters have been given an opportunity, like Ben Nelson, a young centre-back who is very highly thought of at the club.

He’s had opportunities in the FA Cup and the League Cup, which was another chance to have a look at some of the under-21s.

Will Alves has had a few injury problems but is another one who’s very highly thought of. If he’s okay, then he might feature in some capacity against Bournemouth, but he’s picked up a muscular injury.

It’s an opportunity for the youngsters to get a bit of pitch time under Enzo and to get a bit of a taste of how he works and what the philosophy of the game-plan is.

I’m sure that will be the same against Bournemouth.

afcb.co.uk: Give us your memories of the Foxes’ FA Cup final win in 2021?

RT: For starters, there were so few fans in the ground.

The first game back with some fans in the ground was the semi-final against Southampton when there was only supposed to be 4,000 in the ground.

There were a few more than that for the final but it was still a great occasion and it was just one of those days where it felt it was meant to be.

It was just post-Covid and there were big banners on both sides in the top tier covering the seats at Wembley.

On the one from Leicester, there was a big picture of Vichai, the owner and chairman who died in the helicopter crash.

He was looking down on that end of the ground and his favourite number was number eight, which has some sort of lucky pretence in his culture.

It was number eight Youri Tielemans (pictured above) who scored at that end in the 63rd minute, which would have been Vichai’s age that year.

I was on the press bench, sat directly behind it, so watched it go all the way like an arrow into the top corner and it was just surreal.

Then, ex-Leicester player Ben Chilwell scored what we thought was the equaliser.

Chelsea players and fans celebrated only for VAR to intervene and it was ruled out for a marginal offside.

You get the impression it was meant to be because Leicester had reached the final four times and never previously won the FA Cup.

I think that’s the most final appearances without ever winning it before that day. The whole day was just very memorable and if you believe in these sort of things, it was fate.

afcb.co.uk: Who is their rising star?

RT: Ben Nelson (pictured above).

He’s great on the ball, he can play with both feet and he’s tall. He’s got the physical stature but he’s also quick and he can defend space.

I think he will feature in this game. He is the one that I think they are really excited about for the future.

afcb.co.uk: Are any key players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

RT: Jannik Vestergaard (pictured above) picked up his tenth booking of the season against Leeds but his two-match suspension only applies to the league so he is available.

Jamie Vardy picked up a groin injury that kept him out of the Leeds game and is expected to again miss out against Bournemouth.

afcb.co.uk: How do you see the game panning out and what’s your score prediction? 

RT: Having had their lead at the top of the Championship cut to six points, I think their focus will be elsewhere.

I expect them to make a lot of changes and Bournemouth will probably do the same.

But I think their Premier League quality might just tell in this game.

It’s going to be a big barometer of where Leicester are to see if they can take this model into the Premier League if they get promoted.

It will be an intriguing one and a tight one, but I think Bournemouth will just shade it 2-1.

You can follow Rob on X (formerly Twitter) – @RobTannerLCFC

Officials: Paul Tierney (referee), Scott Ledger (assistant), Sian Massey-Ellis (assistant), Tim Robinson (fourth official), Michael Oliver, Darren England (VAR).

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