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What can Sunderland expect from resurgent Leicester this evening? SAFC fans - it may not be pretty

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Sunderland take on Leicester tonight at the King Power Stadium, with David Moyes' side now reaching desperation as they sit at the bottom of the table. What can we expect from last season's Premier League champions?

Leicester City v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

What Has Happened Since The Last Time They Met? (2-1, 3/12/2016)

A lot has changed since the sides last met in December. Claudio Ranieri's fairytale came to an end in February after a run of one point from 18 and no Premier League goal in 2017, with the Italian dismissed following a 2-1 Champions League defeat to Sevilla. There was mass outrage from the media, fans of other teams and fellow managers.

But the Thai owner's decision to remove Ranieri and give the job to assistant manager Craig Shakespeare looks to have been a masterstroke. Leicester are a side transformed, from relegation certainties to something close to the team that shocked the world to win the Premier League last season.

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Shakespeare is the first English manager to win his first four Premier League games, while Leicester have scored 11 goals in their four league games under his management. That's as many goals as they scored in their last 14 Premier League games under Claudio Ranieri.

The new man also oversaw The Foxes' second leg triumph over Sevilla to set up a Champions League quarter final with Atletico Madrid.


Tactics

Leicester seem to have gone back to basics, or at least what they know best. That means a 4-4-2, with Leicester defending from the front via the energetic Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy. Vardy plays at the head of the attack, with Okazaki dropping slightly deeper to provide a link between midfield and attack. The Englishman constantly looks to use his pace behind the defensive line, while Okazaki presses high up the pitch to win the ball back.

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Behind them, Leicester have rediscovered their pressing game. The absence of N'Golo Kante clearly hit them hard, but the January arrival of Wilfred Ndidi has helped to fill the void. The Nigerian is making an impressive 4.4 tackles and two interceptions per game, and his workrate and intensity is providing The Foxes with the platform to play with the counter attacking style that was so effective last season.

Defending deep invites pressure from Leicester's opponents, and the ball winning abilities of their midfielders allows them to get the ball from back-to-front quickly, where the pace of Okazaki, Vardy, Demarai Gray and Riyad Mahrez can combine to devastating effect.

Their style of play is very direct, hitting 75 long balls per game (4th most), while they average just 43.7% possession (4th least) and pass with just 69.4% accuracy (2nd worst).


Strengths

Leicester are putting in a huge defensive effort under the new gaffer, averaging a massive 24 tackles per game, while also making 13.5 interceptions.

Leicester City v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

They've also greatly improved their shooting, averaging seven shots on target in the past four games compared to their usual 3.8. 11 goals in those four games represents a conversion rate of just under 40%, which seems rather impressive.

They also appear to have rediscovered their old swagger and are playing with great confidence. Sunderland will need to be wary of their significant counter attacking threat.


Weaknesses

On the surface, Leicester appear to be strong in aerial duels. They win an average of 20.8 per game (the 4th most in the league), and have won a huge 24.5 in Shakespeare's four games. However, they actually lose 27 per game, by far the most in the league, meaning that they win just 43%.

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

This translates into struggles in set-piece situations. They've scored just seven all season while conceding 13, which represents the league's third highest total.

They still allow a decent amount of pressure on their goal too, with teams averaging 14.25 shots against them in Shakespeare's four games


Key Player - Jamie Vardy

Leicester's talisman has started to rediscover the sparkling form that saw him win the 2015-16 Premier League Player of the Year award. Vardy has scored six goals in his last seven games in all competitions, including four goals and two assists in his last four Premier League games.

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

He's scored three Premier League goals against Sunderland - he's only scored more against Liverpool - and the Black Cats' defence are likely to be in for a tough night against the speedster on Tuesday.


Match Facts

  • Leicester have never lost a home Premier League game against Sunderland;
  • Sunderland have failed to score in their last five matches;
  • Leicester have won their last five games in all competitions;
  • Sunderland have lost seven of their last eight away games;
  • Jamie Vardy has scored three Premier League goals against Sunderland - he's only scored more against Liverpool;
  • Jermain Defoe has scored four goals in his last five games against Leicester

Likely Line-Ups

Leicester - Football tactics and formations