Manchester United's stellar away form is powering a surprise title push, and Kevin Hatchard believes the Red Devils can overwhelm Leicester City...
"United have won their last ten Premier League away games, including a 2-0 success at Leicester in last season's winner-takes-all clash."
Leicester City v Manchester United
Saturday 26 December, 12:30
Live on BT Sport
Vardy the driving force behind flying Foxes
There's an air of Star Wars villain Jango Fett about Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy. A grizzled sharpshooter who has overcome the odds to reach the top tier of his profession, somebody you wouldn't mess with. If Leicester could create a clone army of Vardys when the great man finally hangs up his boots, they surely would. If none of this paragraph has made sense to you, Vardy is basically very good.
The 33-year-old former England international has fired in 11 Premier League goals in 13 matches this season, and last term he was the division's top scorer with 23 goals. If you go back to the title-winning season of 2015-16, you see that he scored 24 times in the top flight, so his goal numbers in the last five completed campaigns have been 24, 13, 20, 18, and 23. If he carries on at his current scoring rate, he'll beat all of those tallies this term. He is currently 5.49/2 in the Premier League Top Goalscorer market.
Of course, Leicester's success doesn't just hinge on Vardy. James Maddison and Youri Tielemans are shining in midfield, Wesley Fofana has been a big hit in defence since his move from Saint Etienne, Harvey Barnes has chipped in with three Premier League goals, and between the posts Kaspar Schmeichel has been very Kaspar Schmiechel. Going into the festive fixtures, Brendan Rodgers' side are second in the Premier League, four points off top spot and two clear of fifth-placed Chelsea.
But of course, Leicester have danced this dance before, only for it to end in bitter failure. The Foxes held onto a precious Champions League spot for most of the last campaign, only for their Boxing Day opponents Manchester United to snatch it out of their grasp on the final day. With only a ten-point gap between first and tenth, competition is fierce for the top four, and Leicester are currently trading at 3.953/1 in the Top 4 Finish market.
Vardy is expected to shake off a minor knock, after coming off in the closing stages of the 2-0 win at Tottenham. Centre-back Caglar Soyuncu is on the road to recovery, but might not be quite fit in time.
Perplexing United on the charge
Sometimes it feels easier to predict the next set of lottery numbers than to work out how Manchester United are going to play in any particular game, but they have found some consistency in the Premier League, so much so that some are beginning to think they could be challengers for Liverpool's throne. Is his latest Betfair column, former United striker Dimitar Berbatov says he believes the Red Devils do have the firepower to finish top of the pile.
United have won six of their last seven Premier League matches, beating decent sides like Everton, Southampton and West Ham along the way. They avoided defeat in an eye-burningly bad Manchester derby (it ended 0-0) and on the road they have won ten Premier League games in a row. They are only five points behind the leaders Liverpool with a game in hand, and they have rattled in 28 goals in 13 league matches. Only Liverpool and Chelsea have scored more often, and both have played a game more.
It's also worth remembering that United won a high-pressure game at the King Power last season, as they won 2-0 in what was effectively a Champions League playoff. United have won their last four meetings with the Foxes, and their last defeat against them was over six years ago.
United the rightful favourites
Leicester's home form has been their undoing this term in the top flight. They have lost four of their seven PL matches at the King Power, and none of those losses have been against teams with a realistic claim to qualify for the Champions League.
United have won at Leicester recently, they have a terrific away record and they are on form. Backing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side in the Match Odds market seems a leap of faith given their inconsistency, but in the league at least, they are starting to build serious momentum.
I'll back United to win at 2.447/5.
Goals bet depends on fear factor
The market expects goals here, with Over 2.5 Goals trading at 1.728/11 and Both Teams To Score priced at 1.68/13. However, there are a couple of factors holding me back. Firstly, Leicester were a bit timid in that winner-takes-all clash with United in July, and they will be concerned about the visitors' attacking potency on the counter-attack. It's also worth considering that City have drawn a blank in four of their last eight home games. I also think we should note that United had a League Cup quarter-final on Wednesday at Everton, a game they won 2-0 thanks to late goals from Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial.
I think the market has been influenced by United's recent away games. The last six have seen BTTS and Over 3.5 Goals land, but I'm just not totally sure that such a vital game in the race for the top four will have the same amount of fireworks. If you do think it'll be lively, Over 3.5 Goals is probably your best value bet at 2.829/5.
Penalty drama on the cards?
The Sportsbook has priced the award of a penalty in this match at 6/4, and that's a bet worth considering when you think that Leicester have been awarded a league-high nine spot-kicks this term, and United are joint-second in that list with five and received a league-high 14 last season. If you think there will be a penalty, it's natural to then think of backing the potential takers in the To Score market. Vardy is priced at evens to score, while Bruno Fernandes - who scored the opener in this fixture last season - is a hefty 17/10.
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