Nottingham Forest will look to dethrone FA Cup holders Leicester City when they face off in what will be a feisty East Midlands derby on Sunday afternoon.

Nottingham Forest arguably caused the biggest upset so far in this FA Cup campaign when they sent Arsenal packing, claiming a 1-0 win against the Gunners in the last round of the FA Cup. They will now fancy their chances of shocking holders Leicester City in an East Midlands derby at the City Ground in Sunday’s lunchtime fixture.

Despite losing 2-1 against Cardiff City in their most recent encounter, Forest have been on a roll since Steve Cooper took over the reins from Steven Reid in September and are well in the push for a Championship play-off spot. Only four sides in the second tier have picked up more points across the last ten Championship games than Forest, who are now only two points off the play-off places in the Championship.

The holders, meanwhile, began their trophy defence with a 4-1 win against Watford, but have been plagued by illness and injury in recent months, as well as players summoned away to the Africa Cup of Nations. After narrowly missing out on the Champions League during the previous two campaigns, Leicester had been projected to be in a similar position in the league this time out.

However, the Foxes have consistently underperformed this season, with their defensive collapse against Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton & Hove Albion being the narrative of their season. Leicester have only won three of their last ten games in all competitions, and they have surrendered a whopping 17 goals during that period. Despite having games in hand, Leicester are essentially out of contention for the top four, given that they are 12 points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United.

Leicester City played out a 2-2 draw against Nottingham Forest when they met each other in the Championship in February 2014. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the FA Cup fourth-round clash at the City Ground.

Team News & Tactics

Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest are set to be without the services of at least four players when they welcome Leicester on Sunday. Loic Mbe Soh, Alex Mighten, Joe Worrall and Rodrigo Ely could all be potential absentees. However, the biggest blow would be the loss of top-scorer and skipper Lewis Grabban, who has 16 goal involvements so far this season. The Forest manager was unsure of the degree of his captain’s injury, but the striker is unlikely to play on Sunday.

Forest managed to hold on to wing-back Djed Spence despite Premier League interest from Tottenham in January in a boost for their promotion push. Winter arrivals Jonathan Panzo and Sam Surridge will hope to make their Forest debuts this weekend.

Forest boss Steven Cooper may revert to the three-man defence that helped them knock Arsenal out of the competition last time out. Brice Samba will continue to operate in goal, with a three-man central defensive unit containing Panzo, Steve Cook and Scott McKenna in front of him at the heart of the Forest backline.

Spence was named man of the match against Arsenal last time out in the FA Cup and is a guaranteed starter in the right wing-back position, whereas Max Lowe will fill in on the other flank as the left wing-back. The wing-back duo will have the license to surge forward and create menace, but they will also need to keep their shape defensively to reduce the threat of the Foxes’ wingers.

Cooper is expected to opt for a midfield pair of Ryan Yates and James Garner in the middle of the park. Philip Zinckernagel will be in the advanced midfielder role and tasked to create opportunities for the attackers. With Grabban likely to be sidelined for at least a month, Aston Villa loanee Keinan Davis has been a handy addition for Forest, scoring in his last two games. He should be restored in the attack alongside in-form Brennan Johnson.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Samba; Panzo, Cook, McKenna; Spence, Yates, Garner, Lowe; Zinckernagel; Davis, Johnson

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Leicester City

In a piece of positive news for the Foxes, their injury worries have eased significantly of late, and now Brendan Rodgers only has five players sidelined for this encounter, including Wesley Fofana, Jamie Vardy, Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne, and Ryan Bertrand.

Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi, and Kelechi Iheanacho have all returned from the Africa Cup of Nations. On the other hand, Ricardo Pereira is slated to feature on Sunday. Surprisingly, Leicester have done no business in the window despite the shortcomings at the back. Nampalys Mendy has been re-added to the Foxes’ 25-man Premier League squad for the rest of the season, but he currently remains at AFCON.

With an important double-header in the Premier League next week, Rodgers will likely try to strike a balance when it comes to managing his resources. James Justin has just recently recovered from a nasty injury and might be rested, while Youri Tielemans could also be given a breather ahead of next week’s Premier League trip to Liverpool.

Second-choice goalkeeper Danny Ward could get the nod between the sticks ahead of No. 1 Kasper Schmeichel, with the Foxes lining up in a widely used 4-2-3-1 formation in front of him. Daniel Amartey and Jannick Vestergaard ought to form the centre-back pairing, flanked by the full-backs Luke Thomas and Marc Albrighton.

Hamza Choudhury will partner up with Boubakary Soumare in the holding midfield positions as they look to dominate the battle at the centre of the park. James Maddison continues to be a creative hub for the Foxes and has been in red-hot form, providing 13 direct goal contributions in his last 12 appearances (8 goals, 5 assists).

Patson Daka has stepped up for Leicester in Jamie Vardy’s absence and has netted three times in his last four outings. Ayoze Perez could come out of suspension to feature down the left-hand flank, whereas Ademola Lookman will provide a more aggressive option due to his pace and flair on the right side.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ward; Albrighton, Amartey, Vestergaard, Thomas; Soumare, Choudhury; Perez, Maddison, Lookman; Daka

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Key Stats

  • The two teams will face off in an East Midlands derby for the first time since a 2-2 draw in the Championship back in 2014.
  • Leicester have won their last 7 matches in the FA Cup, their longest winning streak in their whole history in the competition.
  • The Foxes have only lost once in their last eight meetings against Nottingham Forest in all competitions (D5 W2).
  • Nottingham Forest are in a good run of form at the moment and have won 7 times in their last 10 games in all competitions.
  • This is Nottingham Forest’s eighth FA Cup fixture against a team defending the trophy, with Forest having progressed on five out of the seven previous occasions.

Player to Watch

Brennan Johnson

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With top goalscorer and skipper Lewis Grabban a doubt for this game, the onus will be on youngster Brennan Johnson to produce the goods in the final third. The 20-year-old is having an excellent season in the second tier and has contributed with 12 goal involvements (7 goals 5 assists) in 29 Championship games.

The Welsh midfielder played a key part against the Gunners and was heavily linked with a move away last month, with Leicester one of the interested parties. He has scored in his side’s previous two outings at the City Ground, and it would be unsurprising should he pop up with another strike on the weekend.

Prediction

Nottingham Forest 1-2 Leicester City

The raucous crowd at the City Ground undoubtedly contributed largely to Forest’s triumph over the Gunners last time out. Another great atmosphere is guaranteed in a match that will be played in front of a sell-out crowd of 29,000, many of whom will journey up from Leicester for the derby.

Both teams will be desperate to win local accolades, so expect a high-octane clash between the two sides, both of whom have lofty ambitions in their respective divisions in the second half of the season. This tie promises goals, with Leicester having a porous backline. Forest should be more than a match for the visitors and will be brimming with confidence after knocking out 14-time winners Arsenal in the previous round.

However, with players starting to come back from injury and AFCON duty, Rodgers’ side should have enough quality to overcome the hosts. The Hard Tackle predicts the visitors to book their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup with a narrow 2-1 win at the City Ground.

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