I write this the morning after our pitiful exit in the third round of the FA Cup, to League One outfit Sheffield Wednesday. Whilst the usual keyboard warriors go into meltdown at His Eddiness’ team selection, I’m pretty calm about our defeat.
Realistically, we created enough clear-cut chances to notch four or five on the night, but it was just one of those nights. On another day, we’d be in the hat for the fourth round. As it is, we aren’t.
Many won’t share my opinion; that our early exit could well be a blessing in disguise for NUFC. It’s pretty clear that we have a bloody strong 14 or 15, but after that, the rest just aren’t up to the task. Last night proved that. Giving us a couple of blank weekends will 100% work in our favour when it comes to keeping the core of our key players fit and fresh for the remainder of the season.
Which brings me to Tuesday, and a first quarter final match in front of home fans since Moses was chilling in a crib somewhere along the Nile. Make no bones about it, this is a MASSIVE game for us. Far bigger than the third round of the FA Cup. We have a huge chance to progress to a two-legged, domestic semi-final for the first time in a generation. And look who’s heading to Barrack Road.
We despatched Leicester with ease on Boxing Day, and they’ll arrive in town desperate for revenge. When the draw was made at The Etihad last month, Wor Shay did us a huge favour pulling us out for a home tie, and I, for one, can’t wait for Tuesday night under the lights.
Like NUFC, The Foxes, under the tutelage of the whispering Irishman, Brendan Rodgers, fielded a weakened side at The MENS Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, where they, unlike their opponents on Tuesday, squeezed through with a 1-0 win, after a second-half winner from the lesser seen Kelechi Iheanacho. So, they too, will be fresh and raring to go for this clash.
For anyone who watched the Boxing Day game on Prime Video, you’ll have been relatively surprised at how poor Leicester really were. When I saw the line ups, I was a little nervous that Callum was out and the much-maligned Chris Wood started up front. Our fears evaporated like our FA Cup chances, as we went 2-0 up within 7 minutes and coasted to an easy 3-0 win and a magic re-start to the World Cup hit Premier League season.
Tuesday brings us the perfect opportunity to forget all about Saturday’s nightmare, and it’ll be a white-hot atmosphere, with an 8pm kick off in front of the Sky cameras.
The key take away from that Boxing Day clash was that Leicester try to play out from the back. Music to Eddie’s ears, and our intensity and high press was the game winner in the end. Firstly, Daniel Amartey’s clumsy challenge on J7 to give us a penalty, then a worldie of a one-two between Miggy to give the latter his 9th strike of an unforgettable season. When J7 headed in from a Trippier cross on the half hour, it was game over, thank you very much, 3 points in the bag.
The Foxes’ defence is just a bit shit isn’t it? I can’t remember seeing such a poor individual defensive performance than that of Wout Faes on the day, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Rodgers selects him for this crucial game. Ok, so he scored 2 own goals the following game at Anfield, but you catch my drift right?
Leicester City are having a rotten season. They sit in 13th position in the league, having won 5, drawn 2, and lost 11 of their 18 games to date. In the Carabao Cup this campaign, they first beat Stockport County, 3-1 on penalties after a goalless 90 mins at Edgeley Park in Round 2. Round 3 saw a comfortable home win, 3-0 against our old cup foes Newport County, before they despatched the MK Done 3-0 at Stadium MK in Round 4. Not exactly tough fixtures as they’ve headed in the last 8 of the competition.
I’m confident…. No, I’ll stake my house on Eddie going full strength for the biggest game of our season so far. Out will go the fringe players, who, to a man (maybe except Matt Ritchie) who proved they either aren’t good enough or aren’t ready for the first team. In will come the big hitters. Trippier, Bruno, Schär, Pope et al will be lining up on Tuesday night, desperate to book our place in the last 4 of a competition that we’ve never won and in which we’ve only been to Wembley once (google the 1976 league cup final, where a certain Geordie scored an overhead kick to beat us 2-1 on the day)
Rumours flew around social media yesterday that ASM had fallen out with Eddie and had been left at home. He appears to have deleted the tweet of him suggesting he was ill last night, but his cryptic tweet from Friday, (you can review it here – https://twitter.com/asaintmaximin/status/1611027993975037953) certainly had tongues wagging. Personally, I don’t think Eddie and his team trust ASM to do the hard yards. This, I feel, is why he’s only been seen fleetingly since the re-start after Christmas. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I suspect that we will be looking at a left-sided front player in January or the summer, and that our mercurial Frenchman will be moved on. Perhaps we already have that player, in Alex Isak?
Now, onto the all-important prediction. I may have mentioned it already, but the game is MASSIVE. Our biggest and most important of the season so far, and there’ll be some nerves around the ground come 20:00 on Tuesday night. I don’t see us steamrolling Leicester, I’m afraid. I see more of an edgy, nervous game. I’m going for a 1-0 victory, with a Callum Wilson penalty seeing us into the semis.
For the punters out there, Betfair will offer you 24/1. Don’t go mad on it, maybe a couple of quid and let’s all go home happy.
Enjoy the game lads and lasses. HWTL
Paul Karter @peekeekay