MX23RW : Wednesday, June 23 17:02:21| >> :600:101964:101964:
Jan 23, 2016 at 3pm UK at King Power Stadium
LeicesterLeicester City
3-0
StokeStoke City
Drinkwater (42'), Vardy (66'), Ulloa (87')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Leicester City vs. Stoke City

Sports Mole looks ahead to the Premier League encounter between Leicester City and Stoke City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

If the Manager of the Year award were handed out tomorrow, the bosses of Leicester City and Stoke City would certainly be in the running to scoop the accolade.

Both teams have defied expectations this season and ahead of their clash at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the pair will harbour genuine aspirations of securing themselves European football.


Leicester

Claudio Ranieri has a chuckle prior to the game between Aston Villa and Leicester on January 16, 2016© Getty Images

While nobody likes to lose, last night's 2-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of the FA Cup may end up being a blessing in disguise for Leicester.

It means that while those around them all have domestic cup and European matches to contend with, the joint leaders have only 16 Premier League games left to play between now and May.

Speaking after his side's exit at the hands of Spurs, Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri admitted: "Of course our priority was and is the league. Now we have to play against another good team in Stoke City."

Yet, while the Foxes may be flying high after a remarkable start to the campaign, there have been some reasons for caution over recent weeks.

Once a side that looked as though they would score every time that they scampered forward, Leicester have failed to beat the opposition's goalkeeper in four of their last seven outings. During that sequence, they have found the net on more than one occasion only once.

The main reason behind that is quite clear - Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, who have spearheaded the team's rise to the top, have been far from clinical of late. Striker Vardy has not found the net since mid-December, while Algerian playmaker Mahrez is without a goal in 2016, having missed penalties against Bournemouth and Aston Villa.

Recent form: WLDDWD
Recent form (all competitions): DDDWDL


Stoke

Stoke City boss Mark Hughes watches on during the game with Everton on December 28, 2015© Getty Images

It says a lot about the current quality in the Stoke squad that Arsenal's 0-0 draw at the Britannia Stadium last Sunday was regarded to have been a point gained for the champions elect.

After all, Stoke have defeated both Manchester clubs and Chelsea in the Potteries this season, which is part of the reason as to why they find themselves in seventh position at present, just six points adrift of the Champions League places.

However, while there have been impressive results picked up on their own patch, on the road results have been more of a mixed bag for Mark Hughes's side.

In November for example, a 1-0 win away at Southampton was immediately followed up by a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a hapless Sunderland on Wearside. Such inconsistency means that Stoke have only won back-to-back away matches once this season.

Nevertheless, with Jack Butland in stubborn mood between the posts, they have still tended to be a tough nut to crack on the road. From their 11 away games to date, clean sheets have been kept five times.

A win in the East Midlands would be their 10th in the Premier League this season, which would be three games quicker than they reached double figures last term.

Recent form: LWWLWD
Recent form (all competitions): WLLWWD


Team News

Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring Stoke's opener against Everton on December 28, 2015© Getty Images

For Stoke, they are sweating on the fitness of Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri.

He has been troubled by a hamstring problem of late, but there have been suggestions that he will recover in time to play in this game.

However, American defender Geoff Cameron is not expected to be considered because of an ankle injury.

As for Leicester, having rested a number of players for the clash with Spurs, Ranieri is expected to make a host of changes.

Vardy should take his place in attack, while the likes of Marc Albrighton and Robert Huth are also in the running to feature.

Leicester possible starting lineup:
Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Albrighton, Kante, Drinkwater, Mahrez; Vardy, Okazaki

Stoke possible starting lineup:
Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Whelan, Affelay, Shaqiri, Arnautovic; Bojan, Joselu


Head To Head

When the two sides met at the Britannia Stadium earlier in the season, Stoke raced into a 2-0 lead, only to be pegged back by the Vardy and Mahrez combination.

Even so, most recently this fixture has often gone the way of Stoke, who have lost just one of the last seven.

Leicester's victory during that period came in September 2014 thanks to a goal from Leonardo Ulloa.


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We say: Leicester 0-0 Stoke

There may be 11 points between the two sides, but with Leicester having struggled for goals of late, there is likely to be not much between them on Saturday. It could well be an encounter where the two defences are on top.



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Riyad Mahrez misses a penalty during the game between Aston Villa and Leicester on January 16, 2016
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