Leicester face their biggest test of the season so far when they visit fellow promotion hopefuls Cardiff on Tuesday evening.
The match sees the return of the Foxes to the ground on which they were dramatically knocked out of last season’s play-off semi-final on penalties by the Bluebirds, and Sven-Goran Eriksson’s in-form side will be eager to put their disappointments behind them to take victory in Wales.
Eriksson has overseen a superb turnaround at the Walkers Stadium in recent times, as his Foxes side travel to the Welsh capital hunting down an eighth win in their last nine Championship fixtures.
City have won their last five matches on the spin in the league, claiming their latest scalp at home to Bristol City on Friday evening thanks to Martyn Waghorn’s late winner at the Walkers.
Meanwhile hosts Cardiff have enjoyed another strong campaign thus far, but were dealt a blow at the weekend at the City Ground where Nottingham Forest emerged 2-1 victors.
Dave Jones’ side sit in fourth spot after their weekend setback, four points ahead of the Foxes, and know they must come up with some kind of result to avoid losing their grip on automatic promotion hopes.
And the visit of Eriksson’s side will be less than welcome with the visitors’ excellent recent league run firmly in mind.
Leicester could well find themselves in a play-off spot for the first time this season with victory in Cardiff, depending on Leeds’ home result against Barnsley.
But with the ‘business end’ of the season fast approaching, Eriksson knows victory on Tuesday evening could be the stamp of authority to firmly establish the Foxes as potential automatic contenders for promotion.
Leicester came out on top against a depleted BLuebirds side when the two sides met at the Walkers back in September, Andy King’s superb brace overcoming Lee Naylor’s fortuitous opener.
Cardiff full-back Kevin McNaughton: “We’ve got to pick ourselves up again because we can’t really feel sorry for ourselves.
“We’ve got a big game again Tuesday and… we’ve got to really get on with it and try and get ourselves up there again.
“Leicester are on a good run of form but we’ve been on a decent run up until this result [at Forest].”
Leicester striker Martyn Waghorn: “It is a massive game. Everyone knows what Cardiff are about. They are a good team with great players so I think this win could give the boys an extra spur going into the game.
“If it had stayed 1-1 at home to Bristol, we could have been a bit down but we got the three points and we are only five points off second place now, so I am sure the boys have got their tails wagging and hopefully we can go there and get a result.”
Cardiff City Team News:
Michael Chopra (ankle) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) will be handed late fitness tests ahead of the match.
Paul Quinn may be sidelined with both calf and hamstring issues.
Player to watch: Craig Bellamy
Not a particularly difficult call to make, but keep him quiet and Leicester could find themselves onto a winner. The fearsome striker is certainly not the only threat to be wary of, with both Jay Bothroyd and Peter Whittingham also capable of creating havoc.
Bellamy is without doubt a Premier League player, and needs little introduction. His qualities are clear, and inside that feisty diminutive are goals, goals and more goals.
Leicester Team News:
Leicester will assess striker Darius Vassell, after the striker missed training on Monday with a tight hamstring.
Lloyd Dyer or Martyn Waghorn are on standby to step into the former England striker’s shoes, while Yuki Abe is battling for a recall in place of Matt Oakley.
Player to watch: Richie Wellens
Without doubt one of City’s most important players, Wellens’ ability to break down attacks and unlock defences at the other end is priceless to the Foxes.
Providing the service to Yakubu up front may be crucial to the Foxes’ chances of success in the Welsh capital, and Wellens is certainly the man to do it.
Match Facts & Stats
– Leicester have lost four of their last six away matches against Cardiff.
– The Foxes have not completed a league ‘double’ over the Bluebirds since the 1961/2 season.
– Eriksson’s side could notch six successive victories for the first time since 1993.
– Cardiff have kept the most clean sheets in the division (8).
– The Bluebirds have the division’s second best record against top-half sides.
Danny McDermid (London)
This one’s a tough old cookie. Cardiff 1-1 Leicester.
Saturday 26th February: