Leicester City v Norwich City
Wednesday 11th May, kick-off 19:45
Rodgers needs a rebuild fast
Leicester return to Premier League action on Wednesday night, and at least stay rooted home at the King Power; one crumb of comfort following a 1-2 defeat to Everton. But their home record isn't particularly good.
A season which has seen them defend poorly on a consistent basis means Brendan Rodgers will face a crunch summer. Key players such as Youri Tielemans, playmaker James Maddison and winger Harvey Barnes have all been linked with moves away from the club. Their European adventure came to an end last week against an emotional Jose Mourinho's Roma, but the Everton loss was worrying. They dominated the game for large periods, but found Jordan Pickford in irresistible form - a run now which means the Foxes are without a victory in seven games - the longest run without a win under Rodgers.
You can still back Leicester for a Top 10 Finish at 2.245/4. Considering their next two games are against Norwich and Watford, that really should be six points. I however am leaving that market alone after Southampton's demise.
Rodgers was almost summing up the season as a whole by criticising the hunger and desire from Sunday. Also with the way they shot themselves in the foot was symptomatic of the way they have played. At least they have eight wins at home compared to just three away - and one of those was the 1-2 win at Carrow Road in August. Although it took 76 minutes for Leicester to get the winner thanks to Marc Albrighton.
Calls for Smith to go, but problems lie deeper
As a Foxes fan if you think things are bad, spare a thought for Norwich. A sense of apathy and anger is now creeping in for the faithful, who so often seemed to enjoy their Premier League experiences under Daniel Farke in the past with realisation that they'd be going down, but back up.
The recruitment has been pretty shambolic, and I've always viewed Norwich as a very well-run club that perhaps knew their limitations. The decision to fire Farke, and indeed the manner of it was a poor one. From the outside it looked as if the club had already prepared for relegation and cut their cloth accordingly. That all changed and it seemed the board panicked following a series of lamentable displays.
They have never recovered from that. I don't think you can blame Dean Smith either, as he has walked into a shambles. Banners calling for "Smith Out" appeared too, but this is not Smith's fault. He's walked into a hornets' nest.
It's a third season in a row now in which promotion has been followed by relegation and fans protested on Sunday after the 0-4 defeat to West Ham. By the way, and hindsight and all that, but how an earth were West Ham allowed to be 4/6?
Kenny McLean and Josh Sargent were recently ruled out of the remaining four games. Christoph Zimmermann missed the Hammers clash with a groin issue, while Adam Idah and Andrew Omobamidele won't be playing for the remainder of the campaign either.
Their situation has been summed up perfectly by a recent letter from Gary Gowers, who wrote they remain increasingly uncompetitive at an elite level. Indeed, with just two away wins and 10 goals score on the road, it's bleak.
The fact Leicester are priced at nearly 1.4840/85 reflects how bad the Foxes have been this season, as any team that are half-decent in the top-half would be shorter. A top three team would be about 1.101/10 for this or even shorter. With the Canaries boasting a solitary home 2-0 win against Burnley as the only success in their last 13 games, and a previous win away from home in November, even the 8.07/1 offer can't tempt me.
Its a difficult game with Norwich down, and the way they completely rolled over like a dog who wanted his belly tickled against West Ham indicated to me that things are getting worse. Smith has called for the team to play with pride and get some momentum for next season, but it ain't gonna happen as they say.
I don't like tipping 1/2 chances in the outrights, but I don't think it's a bad price. The Everton defeat was a no-win. They had the hangover from Europe against a team who are fighting for their lives, the problem backing such short prices is that you are on a hiding to nothing. It wins, and tipping a 1.51/2 shot is a very easy option, but they lose; and you are left with egg on your face. Likewise you could tip Norwich and back the Canaries at 8.07/1, but they were so poor against West Ham you'd want 10.09/1 at least.
Even the trading angle in-play for Norwich is minimal. The last time they took the lead in a game that wasn't their sole Burnley success was against Liverpool. Although bizarrely their two best away performances have come against the Reds and Manchester United. An early goal makes for a trade to lay back, but Smith's side hardly ever take the lead.
Their xG numbers from their last three have all been below 1.0, with processes of 0.78, 0.35 and 0.66.
Leicester fare little better, with an abysmal 0.24xG recently against Aston Villa in a 0-0. However, they at least got their numbers up against Everton with a 1.47.
I think the best way to play this is the Norwich +2 market with by backing Leicester -2 at 4.03/1. I was slightly tempted with the -3 at 8.07/1, but the last time the Foxes scored four was against Randers in February. The Everton loss was just City's second in 17 games at home in all competitions, and they have been better at the King Power this term, and that's enough to lead me to the handicap bet.
The hosts do have plenty of talented youngsters waiting in the wings, and the local press has reported that Rodgers might use and blood one or two of the rookies towards the end of the season. Ben Nelson, Oli Ewing, and Sammy Braybrooke have been included in squads this term and Braybrooke has captained England at u18s. Lewis Brunt made his recent PL debut against Spurs and he could be close to another run out.
However, mixed messages regarding team news means the To Score market is difficult. James Maddison missed the Everton game but he could be back for the hosts on Wednesday and I would back him to score against his former club.
The 25-year-old has enjoyed his best-ever season in the face of a poor club one with 14 goals from midfield, and playing him on the To Score market at around 3.02/1 looks a good way to go. Likewise, I do enjoy taking on an opposite number at the shortest price, and I've had success this season for the PL previews by laying Teemu Pukki.
The main proportion of his goals come at home and he's only netted three away all season, and with the club scoring just 10 times on the road, we can take him on.
Putting up Maddison for a Bet Builder does rest on him starting, but my one option here is to play the Both Team To Score market, which is something I have been using a fair bit in League One to boost the 0-0 Correct Score bet. We can play the 'No' price of 11/10, with the Leicester win at Half Time which pays around 3.412/5. Norwich haven't scored a goal in their last three, and while the hosts have problems with set-pieces, Norwich are hardly a force in that area.
Adding the 2-0 and 3-0 for that Bet Builder to make a treble pays 10.09/1 and 12.011/1.
*You can follow me on Twitter @DudmanAl