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First team

Media view: Expert insight on Leicester

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be looking to build on their draw with Tottenham when they host Premier League high-fliers Leicester City at Vitality Stadium tomorrow (7pm kick-off).

The Foxes are currently fourth, a point ahead of Manchester United, as the battle for Champions League places hots up with just four games remaining.

Leicester host Sheffield United and visit the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before entertaining the Red Devils at King Power Stadium on the final day of the season.

Brendan Rodgers team have experienced a mixed bag since the season resumed, drawing three Premier League games, winning one and losing one.

Jamie Vardy’s late equaliser earned them a point from a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Tuesday as they ended the Gunners’ recent winning streak.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Rob Tanner, who covers the fortunes of Leicester for The Athletic.

afcb.co.uk: Briefly summarise Leicester’s Premier League form since the season restarted?

RT: It’s been slow. They are a team that rely on energy and athleticism and an intensity to play the way Brendan wants them to with the high press.

More technical teams have found it easier to restart but it’s taken Leicester a little longer to get back up to full speed.

They are still not quite there but there were some encouraging signs against Crystal Palace and certainly in the second half against Arsenal.

They are slowly getting there and Vardy is getting back to a bit of form but it’s been slow since the restart. 

afcb.co.uk: Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta felt Jamie Vardy should have seen red for his challenge on Shkodran Mustafi – what was your opinion?

RT: I think he might have been a little fortunate in terms of the current environment with VAR examining everything.

It was similar to Eddie Nketiah’s sending off for his challenge on James Justin. I don’t think there was any intent but VAR scrutinised it over and over again and decided it was a red card. It took ages.

I don’t think Vardy meant to catch Mustafi in the face and he was falling over when it happened. It doesn’t take a lot to get a red card in the modern game.

afcb.co.uk: How has the team evolved under Brendan Rodgers?

RT: Massively. It’s pretty much the same squad that Claude Puel put together.

They are playing with more intensity because he identified their fitness levels weren’t to the level he wanted them to be. They tried to be a more technical team under Puel but they are more ‘up and at ‘em’ under Brendan.

They had a fantastic start to the season with eight wins on the trot. That was a phenomenal run.

They are getting the best out of Vardy. He is now the focal point of the team whereas he was being a little marginalised under Puel. Brendan has certainly got them going.

afcb.co.uk: Who has been Leicester’s standout performer since the restart?

RT: Kasper Schmeichel. He has pulled off some wonderful saves.

Defensively, they haven’t been too bad. They have changed to a back three in the past couple of games and, before that, Jonny Evans and Çağlar Söyüncü, the two centre-backs, were really strong.

They have lost both full-backs, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira, which has been a big blow so they have switched to a back three.

Schmeichel has been outstanding at the back and, slowly, we are starting to see Vardy getting back to his best as well.

afcb.co.uk: The Foxes have scored 18 goals in the final 15 minutes of their Premier League games this season, more than any other team. What do you put this down to?

RT: Initially, I would say it’s down to fitness. The ability to keep going, keep pressing and working harder than the opposition.

It bore fruit for them in the first half of the season when games weren’t coming so thick and fast.

Having three months off and then only three weeks to prepare for restart really set them back because it’s much harder to play that style of football without the level of intensity and fitness they had in the first half of the season.

afcb.co.uk: Tell us about that change to a back three with Ryan Bennett coming in alongside Evans and Söyüncü against Arsenal?

RT: They had been really struggling to create chances and Brendan has been shuffling his pack.

They have gone away from the 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 formation which was used during the first three-quarters of the season. He also tried a 4-4-2 with Kelechi Iheanacho alongside Vardy up front.

Now he’s gone with a back three with James Justin and Marc Albrighton playing as wing-backs just to try to give them a bit more creativity in midfield.

It didn’t quite work against Arsenal because they were exposed in the first half but it looked a lot better against Palace.

It’s because of the slow start and what’s at stake for them. He’s trying every little trick he can to see if it can get them over the line and secure that Champions League spot.

afcb.co.uk: Do Leicester have any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

RT: Ricardo Pereira is out until October and Daniel Amartey is also out long term.

James Maddison (hip) and Ben Chilwell (foot) were both sidelined against Arsenal and are likely to miss out.

As far as I’m aware, they haven’t picked up any further injuries.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

RT: I fancy Leicester on the back of their recent signs of a resurgence so will go with a 2-1 away win.

You can follow Rob on Twitter – @RobTannerLCFC

Match officials: Stuart Attwell (referee), Simon Long (assistant), Neil Davies (assistant), Simon Hooper (fourth official), Craig Pawson (VAR), Stephen Child (assistant VAR), Mark Pottage (replacement official).

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