LeicesterUEFA Europa Conference LeagueVS
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Leicester City made relatively light work of Danish side Randers in the first leg of their Europa Conference League tie at the King Power Stadium last week and it’s hard to expect anything other than the Foxes comfortably sailing through to the next round.
But the 4-1 win on Thursday was Leicester’s only win since the 8th of January, so this week’s hosts know that they aren’t facing a side in the best shape.
Randers are in league action for the first time in two months on Monday night when they host Viborg, which is hardly ideal preparation for a must-win game 72 hours later.
Leicester warmed up for the second leg with a 2-1 defeat at Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday, but they played their part in competitive game that was decided on two moments of class from their opponents.
Creative star James Maddison started on the bench, but with Leicester not having a league game this upcoming weekend, it gives Brendan Rodgers the chance to play a full-strength side in this one.
Match fitness could well play a part here, with Randers’ only real taste of football in the last eight or nine weeks coming in friendly games, and with the extra day of rest, Leicester should be able to take extra advantage of the huge gulf in quality.
We’re expecting Leicester to put this one to bed early on, so we’re going with the visitors to be winning at half-time and full-time, which is a bet that can be backed at 7/5 with 888sport and with most of the best sports betting sites.
It’s difficult to read too much into the Randers formbook when you consider the fact that their last league match (at the time of writing) was on the 28th of November.
They currently sit in sixth place in the twelve-team Danish Superliga, which hardly strikes fear into sides of Premier League level in England, while an average domestic yield of just over one goal a game is nowhere near enough to ignite confidence that they can get back into this tie.
And neither will their showing in the East Midlands last week. Thomas Thomasberg’s men may have found the net, but they only managed one further shot on target and had barely a third of the ball through the 90 minutes.
The tie is as good as done already, so the priority for Randers for the remainder of the season is surely to secure qualification for European football next season, rather than stage a miraculous comeback here.
On the bright side, Thomasberg has no new injury or suspension concerns for the return leg.
Molineux is a very tough place to go in the Premier League at present, so Rodgers will take some encouragement from the way his team responded to going a goal down against Wolves on Sunday.
Yes, they went on to lose the game, but two long-distance strikers from Ruben Neves and Daniel Podence were the difference-makers, and in general play, the Foxes were more than a match for their hosts.
Chelsea’s League Cup Final commitments mean that Leicester have next weekend off, so this is a good chance for one or two players to let off some steam and return to form.
Their next taste of Premier League action comes on Tuesday 1st of March when they travel to Burnley, and with very few nailed-on starters for Leicester at present, their trip to Randers could also be a chance for fringe members of the squad to play their way into the team for that one.
But Jamie Vardy will be out for a little longer, as the 35-year-old continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.
It will come as little surprise to discover that the first leg between these two was the first time Randers and Leicester have ever faced off.
Randers’ Stadium is, quite conveniently, named “Randers Stadium”, but for sponsorship reasons is officially known as Cepheus Park Randers.
It will be one of the smallest stadiums Leicester have visited for a competitive game this season, with a capacity of little over 10,000.
With a three-goal advantage, Leicester know that they just need to put in a solid, professional performance to confirm their place in the next round.
The onus will be on Randers to come out and attack, but this will surely play into the hands of a visiting side that are at their strongest when playing on the counter, so we’re expecting another comfortable victory for Leicester here.