Leicester open their Championship play-off campaign with the visit of Cardiff City to the Walkers Stadium on Sunday.
The Foxes finished level on points with their Welsh rivals but go into Wednesday’s second leg with no home advantage thanks to an inferior goal difference.
The two sides have already met on three seperate occassion this season, with Cardiff winning their two on home soil compared with Leicester’s solitary victory at the Walkers Stadium in March.
Dave Jones has successfully guided the Bluebirds to a healthy position in the Championship this year after the disappointment of missing out last time around after a humiliating demolition at the hands of Preston to fail the grade by just one goal.
With am embarassment of attacking riches there was little chance of the same scenario occuring this time around, as shown by Cardiff’s haul of 73 league goals this season.
The Bluebirds head into the game with just one defeat in their last 12 matches, that coming in their most recent game against Derby in which Jones fielded a significantly weakened starting lineup.
But standing in the way of adding to an impressive run of form are a Leicester side on a hot streak of their own, winning five consecutive league matches to establish their comfortable position within the play-offs.
Last weekend’s victory over Middlesbrough at the Walkers was achieved with a second-string lineup, and also featured the long-awaited return of fans’ favourite Matty Fryatt to the first team mix after a prolonged period out through injury.
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson will be hoping to gain the upper hand on Sunday ahead of a daunting trip to Cardiff on Wednesday, City having not recorded victory in their three matches in Wales this season.
Fans of the club are dreaming of back-to-back promotions, a scenario which could well happen should the Foxes pull it out the bag starting on Sunday against Dave Jones’ side.
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson: ‘It’s great to have so many players available, it keeps the competition for places really keen. The players, to a certain extent, manage themselves by keeping pressure on each other.
‘It’s a healthy pressure, they are a good group and the chemistry is very very positive. It means that we go into these play-offs with a decent armoury.’
Cardiff manager Dave Jones: ‘When we cross that white line it’ll all be about who plays the best, holds their nerve and gets a little bit of luck. That’s the same every week; the only thing that’ll be different in these play-off games is the atmosphere which will be electric.
‘I cut my squad to twenty earlier in the week – eighteen outfield players and two goalkeepers. There were some tough decisions to be made, but we’ve kept the group together now this week and have worked really hard.’
Leicester City Team News:
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson has an almost fully-fit squad to select from, which means Michael Morrison should recover in time to play after missing out on the last match of the season.
Nicky Adams is carrying a knock but is being treated with injections to get him through the play-offs.
Player to watch: Martyn Waghorn
Can Waghorn make one final hurrah with City in the play-offs and cap off his excellent season in style? Of course he can.
A magnificent season in the absence of Matty Fryatt has seen the youngster play an integral role in proceedings to help fire City into a play-off place. Now with the job only half done Waghorn will be looking to fire City into the Premiership before he heads back to Wearside in the summer.
Cardiff City Team News:
Dave Jones also has a near-on fully fit squad to choose from, with only long-time absentee Gavin Rae out with injury.
Top-goalscorers Peter Whittingham and Michael Chopra will be restored to the starting lineup alongside Jay Bothroyd.
Player to watch: Peter Whittingham
It’s difficult to pick out a particularly dangerous player from a side littered with attacking prowess, but Whittingham’s ridiculous goal tally from the wing stands him out at the moment.
With 23 goals in all competitions from the left side this campaign Whittingham has proved a thorn in most Championship defences, including two goals against the Foxes. Pearson will no doubt have a close eye on the former Villa man.
Match Facts & Stats
– Touching wood, Leicester have never lost a single game in a two-legged semi-final scenario.
– The two sides have each won 20 matches against each other, with 11 draws.
– There has been just four goals in the last six meetings at the Walkers Stadium between the two sides.
– Burnley also finished fifth to make promotion to the Premier League last year.
– Cardiff have won only three of the club’s seven play-off matches.
Matches this season: 37
Yellow cards: 123 (Average 3.2)
Red cards: 5 (Average 0.13)
Traditionally this fixture has always been tight at the Walkers, and I am struggling to seperate the two sides for this one. Leicester 0-0 Cardiff.
Wednesday 12th May
Cardiff vs Leicester
Play-off semi-final second leg, 19.45