Newcastle United host Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday and the Foxes are enjoying their best spell of a tough 2021/22 season.
Original article published 29 August 2022
Brendan Rodgers takes his side to St James' Park (14:15 KO) in pursuit of a fifth win in seven Premier League matches and a run to the semi-finals of the inaugural Europa Conference League has also lightened the mood in the Leicester camp.
Rodgers admitted the new UEFA competition had not been on his radar before the Foxes were eliminated from the Europa League.
However, Thursday's 2-1 second-leg victory at PSV Eindhoven set up a semi-final against Jose Mourinho's Roma and Leicester are 9/4 to be the first Conference League champions.
That should not distract them from finishing as high as possible in the Premier League. After back-to-back fifth-placed finishes in the last two seasons, their standards have dropped this term and Rodgers has been under real pressure at times despite winning the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history in May 2021.
Leicester's European run has helped them get back into the winning habit as they eased past Danish opponents Randers before a 3-2 aggregate win over Rennes, who have been in terrific form in Ligue 1.
Defensive vulnerability has been at the root of the Foxes' problems this season and they have certainly looked a stronger unit since the return from injury of centre-backs Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana.
Leicester have conceded only eight goals in their last 10 matches in all competitions, keeping clean sheets against Burnley and Leeds in the Premier League and Rennes and PSV in the home legs of their Europa Conference League ties.
Given the attacking talent at Rodgers' disposal – even with veteran striker Jamie Vardy still recovering from a knee injury – Leicester will always score goals so if they can maintain their defensive improvement and they could be set for an exciting end to the campaign.
Ricardo Pereira, another important player who has been dogged by injuries, scored the 88th-minute winner against PSV after the in-form James Maddison had equalised with 13 minutes remaining.
Maddison has scored 13 goals in his last 27 appearances in all competitions, including one in December's 4-0 home win over Newcastle, and he is 7/2 to be an anytime goalscorer on Sunday.
Leicester are 23/10 to beat 6/5 Newcastle although both defences have impressed in recent weeks so the draw could be a big runner at 12/5.
Eddie Howe's Bournemouth teams often struggled defensively in the Premier League but he is having no such problems at Newcastle, who are 15/2 to win 1-0 against visitors Leicester.
The Magpies were thumped 5-1 at in-form Tottenham a couple of weeks ago but that was a rare blot on a fine defensive record.
Apart from the rout by Spurs, they have conceded just eight goals in 12 league matches since Christmas so it is no surprise to see them climbing away from the relegation zone under Howe.
Newcastle beat Wolves 1-0 in their last home game and restricted Chelsea to just three shots on target in an unfortunate 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge last month.
Defender Dan Burn has proved to be an inspired January signing from Brighton and the giant stopper is 6/5 to make over 1.5 tackles against Leicester.
Like Leicester, West Ham booked their place in a European semi-final on Thursday night, easing to a 3-0 win in Lyon in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie.
The Hammers have lost their last two Premier League games immediately after Europa League fixtures, going down 3-1 at Tottenham and 2-0 at Brentford, but they are 8/11 to snap that trend with a home win over 15/4 visitors Burnley (14:15 KO).
David Moyes has options to freshen up his attacking unit as Said Benrahma and Andriy Yarmolenko came on as late substitutes in Lyon but he will be reluctant to leave out star man Jarrod Bowen.
The winger, tipped for an England call-up after an outstanding season, has scored in three of his four appearances since returning from a heel injury and is 6/1 to be first goalscorer on Sunday.
The fixture at the London Stadium marks the start of life without Sean Dyche for Burnley after the Clarets' surprise decision to sack the Premier League's longest-serving manager on Friday.
Dyche appeared to be turning things around during a run in January and February that included back-to-back wins over Brighton and Tottenham and creditable draws with Arsenal and Manchester United.
However, goals continue to elude the Clarets, who lost to nil in five of Dyche's last six league fixtures including a disappointing 2-0 defeat at bottom club Norwich last weekend.
Burnley did beat Everton 3-2 in their last home game and West Ham's last two home defeats were by the same scoreline, against Southampton and Leeds. A 3-2 win for the Clarets is 50/1.