MX23RW : Thursday, December 2 15:11:37| >> :120:21308:21308:
Mar 5, 2016 at 5.30pm UK at Vicarage Road
Attendance: 20,884
LeicesterLeicester City
FT(HT: 0-0)
Mahrez (56')

Preview: Watford vs. Leicester City

Sports Mole previews Saturday's evening Premier League kickoff as Watford host leaders Leicester City at Vicarage Road.

Premier League leaders Leicester City will look to take another step towards the title when they travel to Vicarage Road to face Watford in Saturday's late kickoff.

The Foxes were handed a reprieve by their closest challengers in midweek and could end Saturday six points clear at the top of the table should results go their way again this weekend.


Troy Deeney of Watford rests during the Premier League match against Manchester United on March 2, 2016© Getty Images

While the choice for this season's surprise package will surely be unanimously in Leicester's favour, their hosts this weekend certainly deserve an honourable mention.

The Hornets were expected to battle against relegation on their first season back in the top flight, but instead find themselves 13 points clear of the bottom three and on course to avoid the drop for the first time ever in the Premier League.

Indeed, they are only three points adrift of the 40-point mark with 10 games still to play, while they also have an FA Cup quarter-final against either Arsenal or Hull City to look forward to.

It has been a successful campaign on the whole, then, but their form has dipped of late and Quique Flores will be keen to avoid his side's season petering out over the closing months.

They have won just two of their 11 league outings since Christmas to drop into the bottom half of the table, and have failed to even score in four of their last five top-flight matches.

Quite how they didn't find the back of the net on Wednesday will still be a mystery to Flores, though. His side had a number of clear chances against Manchester United at Old Trafford and should have come away with three points, but instead left with nothing courtesy of Juan Mata's late free kick.

Many of the chances fell to Odion Ighalo, who scored 13 goals in 19 league games before the turn of the year but has now managed just one from nine outings so far in 2016.

With their next four games coming against teams currently above them in the table, in addition to a meeting with West Ham United that needs to be rescheduled, the Hornets could really do with Ighalo and his strike partner Troy Deeney returning to form.

They at least seem to be doing things right at the other end of the field in their recent home matches, not conceding at Vicarage Road since the 2-1 win over Newcastle United on January 23 to take their season's tally for clean sheets up to 10 in all competitions.

That win over the relegation-threatened Magpies is their only home triumph in the league since before Christmas, though, and is also the last time that they found the back of the net in front of their own fans in the top flight themselves.

Recent form: WDLWDL
Recent form (all competitions): DLWWDL


Jamie Vardy celebrates with Andy King during the Premier League game between Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion on March 1, 2016© AFP

As another matchday went by in midweek, Leicester took one step closer to pulling off arguably the most unlikely story in English football history.

Most comparisons to Leicester's current run have centred on Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest side in 1977-78 as they stormed to the title the season after being promoted, finishing a full seven points clear of Liverpool, who had won the European Cup the year before and would go on to retain it that season.

As if the heights Leicester are scaling at the moment aren't heady enough, it is worth noting that Clough's Forest side went on to conquer Europe two years in a row after their meteoric rise to the top of English football.

If anything, it would be an even bigger achievement, on the domestic stage at least, should Leicester keep up their form and win the title this season having been among the favourites for relegation just seven months ago.

The money involved in football nowadays had seemingly brought an end to such fairytales, but everything seems to be going in the Foxes' favour this season, and they are being helped on the way by those around them in the table.

Claudio Ranieri watched on as his side dropped two valuable points in the title race on Tuesday night, being held to a 2-2 draw by West Bromwich Albion despite putting in a superior display to the one that saw them nick all three points against Norwich City three days before.

If Ranieri was happy enough with his side's result, he would have barely been able to contain his delight when he watched Wednesday night's events unfold as the rest of the top four - Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City - all remarkably lost.

It was a night that could not have gone any better for the Foxes, who remain three clear of Spurs, six above Arsenal and a full ten ahead of Man City, although the latter do have a game in hand.

At least one of the two teams directly below them in the table will drop more points on Saturday as Spurs host the Gunners in one of the biggest North London derbies in recent times, although a Tottenham victory at White Hart Lane in the early kickoff would knock Leicester off top spot before they take on Watford.

Leicester travel to Vicarage Road having lost just two of their last 17 away games in the Premier League and boasting the division's best record on the road this season, with the most points gained (28) and most goals scored (27) from their 14 outings.

Another positive result this weekend would be three more vital points towards their title dream, but with the others around them seemingly starting to crumble, it is imperative that Leicester themselves hold firm.

Recent form: WWWLWD

Team News

N'Golo Kante of Leicester looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur on August 22, 2015© Getty Images

Leicester will once again be without influential midfielder N'Golo Kante this weekend as he remains sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Andy King came into the starting XI as a replacement on Tuesday night and got himself on the scoresheet, so Ranieri is likely to name an unchanged side at Vicarage Road.

There are no new injury concerns for Watford either, with their list of absentees still including Joel Ekstrand, Jose Jurado, Rene Gilmartin and Tommie Hoban.

Flores may, however, opt to make one or two changes to his side, with Craig Cathcart, Nathan Ake and Mario Suarez among those pushing for a recall.

Watford possible starting lineup:
Gomes; Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Holebas; Abdi, Suarez, Watson, Capoue; Deeney, Ighalo

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

Head To Head

Watford have won just one of the last five meetings between these two sides, although that was a memorable one as Deeney scored a 97th-minute goal just seconds after Leicester had missed a penalty at the other end to send the Hornets into the 2013 Championship playoff final.

They have met just three times before in the Premier League, with Leicester unbeaten in those games, including a 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture at the King Power Stadium in November.

Watford have failed to keep a clean sheet in the last 13 meetings in all competitions, but they have only lost one of their last seven home games against Leicester, with five wins in that time.

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We say: Watford 1-2 Leicester

Leicester were let off the hook a little in midweek, and that should help them to refocus on the job at hand and know they they may not be as lucky with any further slip-ups. Watford are not in good form at the moment and look a little lost in the league with not much left to fight for, so we think the visitors should pick up a narrow victory.

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Quique Flores looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Watford at Old Trafford on March 2, 2016
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