Spartak Moscow v Leicester City
Wednesday 20 October, 15:30
Live on BT Sport 2
Comeback kings Spartak have shown their grit
Given that Napoli have won all eight of their Serie A matches this season in Italy, it was a major surprise to see them lose 3-2 at home to Spartak Moscow on Matchday Two. Rui Vitoria's side conceded a first-minute Eljif Elmas goal, but after Napoli's Mario Rui was dismissed half-an-hour in, the club from the Russian capital produced an incredibly efficient display, scoring with all three of their shots on target.
There was another stirring comeback in a Moscow derby at the weekend. In a bad-tempered game that featured a first-half brawl involving players and staff, Spartak were 2-0 down against Dynamo in the 87th minute, but somehow dug out a 2-2 draw. Despite that result, Spartak find themselves six points adrift of top spot in the Russian Premier League.
Spartak do have plenty of absentees ahead of this clash. Maximilian Caufriez is suspended after his dismissal against Napoli, while Quincy Promes, Ezequiel Ponce, Pavel Maslov and Georgi Melkadze are all expected to miss out with injury.
Foxes have remembered what they are capable of
Saturday's thrilling 4-2 win over Manchester United encapsulated what can be so good about Leicester City under Brendan Rodgers. They attack with pace and purpose, Jamie Vardy is a clinical finisher and a threat in behind, and when the team presses as a unit it can be suffocating for the opposition.
After a tough spell, James Maddison has some bright touches in midfield, Patson Daka got a morale-boosting goal late on to truly wrap up the three points, and Caglar Soyuncu's ailing confidence levels will have been given a boon by the Turkish international's presence on the scoresheet. Vardy was a tireless, snarling presence, a performance that belied the 34-year-old's age.
And yet there is still the soft peal of alarm bells. Not every opponent will be as obliging as Manchester United, who pressed as if they were the bus in Speed, programmed to explode if they went beyond a jog.
Defensively, the Foxes still have big problems. They were sliced open with a simple long ball for the Marcus Rashford goal that made it 2-2, and having kept clean sheets in the opening two competitive games of the campaign, the Foxes' only shut-out since was against lower-league Millwall in the League Cup. The absence of the injured Wesley Fofana is being keenly felt.
Jannik Vestergaard could come in for veteran centre-back Jonny Evans, who suffered cramp against his old club Manchester United, while it remains to be seen whether Vardy will be given a rest in favour of Kelechi Iheanacho or Patson Daka.
Foxes a touch too short at odds-on
Leicester blew a 2-0 lead in a 2-2 draw with Napoli, and then proceeded to lose 1-0 at Legia Warsaw in a really limp display, so they suddenly find themselves in a bit of trouble here. Rodgers' men have only won twice on the road this season, and in the Europa League they haven't won any of their last four away matches.
Given Spartak's heroics against Napoli, I can't get excited about backing Leicester here in the Match Odds market at 1.8810/11.
Goals on the cards
I'm happy to see Both Teams To Score trading at a reasonable 1.84/5 here, because that's the route I'm taking. It didn't pay off in the Legia Warsaw game, but I don't believe Leicester will be that tepid in attack again here, and their defensive issues suggest to me that Spartak will score at least once. It's a bet that has landed in seven of Leicester's last ten outings, and five of Spartak's last ten.
Platform for Patson?
If Vardy is rested, we could see a start for Patson Daka, who has started a little slowly in the Premier League, but is still a player of great promise. His first ever English top-flight goal will have been a huge boost, and he's worth considering in the To Score market at 2.265/4.
On the Spartak side of things, the loss of the in-form Promes is a blow, but Aleksandr Sobolev scored 14 league goals last term, and has struck a couple of times this season. He's available at a chunky 3.814/5.