Manchester City are two games away from successfully defending the Premier League title. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview their penultimate game, to be played on Monday night.
"Liverpool will be hoping their former manager Brendan Rodgers can do them a favour."
Man City v Leicester
Monday 20:00, Sky Sports Premier League
Match Odds: Man City 1.171/6, Leicester 20.019/1, The Draw 10.09/1.
Manchester City are now huge favourites for the Premier League title, but on Monday evening they face a Leicester City side fresh from a hugely impressive 3-0 thrashing of Arsenal last weekend. Liverpool will be hoping for a favour from Brendan Rodgers, their old boss.
Maddison likely to continue on the left
Rodgers used a slightly different system for that Arsenal win, putting James Maddison to the left flank and beefing up his central midfield zone. Maddison was effective from that role, picking up an assist and getting Arsenal right-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles dismissed, and therefore it seems likely that Rodgers will continue with that approach here.
The beneficiary of this system has been Hamza Choudhury, who has found himself in trouble this week for past social media activity, but will probably continue in a midfield trio alongside the excellent Youri Tielemans, who has really impressed throughout his loan spell, with Wilfried Ndidi sitting deeper and protecting the defence.
Marc Albrighton played on the right and is a defensively responsible wide midfielder, while Jamie Vardy will continue to lead the line, and has a particularly good record against big sides who used a high defensive line, where he can use his speed to go in behind.
Defensively, things should be the same, with Ricardo Pereira at right-back and Ben Chilwell at left-back, with Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire protecting Kasper Schmeichel.
De Bruyne and Fernandinho out
As always, Pep Guardiola's team selection is somewhat uncertain. He's definitely without Kevin De Bruyne, and probably also without Fernandinho, although City have largely coped well when deprived of those two so far this season. Ilkay Gundogan will play the holding role, with the two Silvas, Bernardo and David, given more license to push forward.
That is significant in terms of City's front three, because it means Guardiola is likely to use two outright wide forwards. Raheem Sterling will probably move to the right flank with Leroy Sane starting on the left. His battle against the similarly speedy Pereira could be fascinating.
Upfront, Sergio Aguero has probably enjoyed his best campaign in a City shirt, and his movement into the channels - in particularly up against left-sided centre-back Maguire, could be key in City finding the breakthrough.
Guardiola to bring his full-backs inside
At the other end, with Leicester so good on the counter-attack and Fernandinho probably out, Guardiola will probably bring his full-backs inside to defend against breaks through the middle. Kyle Walker is comfortable playing that role on the right, and with a doubt about Benjamin Mendy, expect Oleksandr Zinchenko to play from the left. As a converted midfielder, he's happy drifting inside.
Against Vardy's speed, it would be a huge surprise if Vincent Kompany started. Expect John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi to play alongside Aymeric Laporte, City's most consistent defender this season. Ederson's sweeping might also be a crucial factor as Leicester look to loft balls in behind for Vardy.
City are evidently strong favourites to win this match, but I'm a little surprised to see a draw available at 10.09/1 here. Perhaps that reflects the fact a draw would be largely useless to City, and they may as well go for broke and risk losing the game, but I think it's a decent price against a Leicester side who can be solid defensively and good on the break. I'll back the draw at 10.09/1.
The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson
Usually at this time of the season, teams with nothing to play for lose motivation and just go through the motions. I don’t think we will see that with a rejuvenated Leicester City here.
It should end in a City win though - the home side have won all their home games against top-half teams while Leicester have lost six of their nine away days against top-six teams.
I still feel there will be a twist somewhere in this title race but City have a slight advantage this weekend with Liverpool playing first at Newcastle on Saturday evening, so if the Magpies can cause an upset there, then a City win does not become imperative.
Brendan Rodgers had his first test against a top-six side last time out and they comprehensively beat Arsenal 3-0, but I am not sure Liverpool fans should get their hopes up. Playing a confident and ruthless City at home is a totally different proposition to playing a dysfunctional Arsenal team on the road.
As mentioned in the City v Spurs game for this column, City often score early (5 mins v Spurs), now 19 of their goals have come in the opening 15 minutes (next best in this timeframe is Arsenal with 11). However, maybe it’s tactical or maybe it's pressure but their last two games, against United and Burnley and both away from home, have been 0-0 at half time.
Ultimately, I think the home side will get the job done, but the Foxes could well make the home side earn their win. I will be splitting my stake backing Draw/City at 4.57/2 in the Half Time/Full Time market and backing Manchester City to win to nil at 2.111/10.