An out of sorts Leicester City could use the UEFA Europa Conference League as a welcome distraction when they host Danish side Randers at the King Power Stadium.
The past few weeks have been tough at the King Power Stadium, as Leicester City have kept slipping down the table after a slight upturn in form before the year’s turn. The Foxes are winless in their last five games across all competitions and were also knocked out of the FA Cup emphatically by Nottingham Forest in the process.
Their last victory came over Watford in the third round of the FA Cup earlier in January. They secured their most recent league victory against Liverpool at the end of December. Their terrible run of results have pinned them into 11th place on the Premier League table, giving them a mountain to climb before being considered as contenders to clinch a European place.
However, a third-place finish in their Europa League group could come as a blessing in disguise, as they now embark on an unlikely journey in the third tier Europa Conference League. While there are plenty of good teams around, the Foxes will be in with a shot at winning the tournament, which will help them qualify for the Europa League next term.
The visitors at the King Power for the first leg of the Conference League knockout playoffs are Danish side Randers, who are here courtesy of a second-place finish in their group. This clash is one of the biggest in their recent history, and they would certainly relish the opportunity.
The big issue would be their match sharpness, as the Danish League is still on a break. Meanwhile, they have barely played any competitive games at the highest level, with the players restricted to seven friendlies to regain fitness. Match sharpness could be a telling factor for Randers, who will face a Foxes side eager to string together a run of good results.
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Brendan Rodgers could give some of his Premier League regulars a breather while looking to integrate those who missed recent games. Timothy Castagne is a long-term absentee, while Ricardo Pereira will also miss out as part of his rehabilitation program to treat the leg injury he recently recovered from.
James Justin, who hobbled off with a hamstring problem, is expected to miss a few weeks of action, while Ryan Bertrand is also unavailable due to injury. Luke Thomas has been the preferred choice at left-back and should continue to feature on Thursday night, with Daniel Amartey likely to start at right-back.
Despite his bad patch of form in recent games, Jannik Vestergaard could play a role at the heart of the Leicester defence alongside Caglar Soyuncu. Boubakary Soumare should be selected to play in a midfield double pivot, with Hamza Choudhury his probable partner there.
Marc Albrighton might come in on the right side of the attack, with Ademola Lookman taking the opposite flank. Rodgers could afford Ayoze Perez a chance behind the main striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who missed the previous game against West Ham United. James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Patson Daka could be called upon if things do not go to plan.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ward; Amartey, Vestergaard, Soyuncu, Bertrand; Soumare, Choudhury; Albrighton, Perez, Lookman; Iheanacho
Randers manager Thomas Thomasberg will have to get it right with his team selection and send out his best possible lineup on the field at the King Power, hoping for a positive result against the Premier League outfit. There have been a few departures of late, although nothing seems significant enough to affect their clash with the Foxes.
Given that Randers have been inactive for a considerable period owing to the winter break in Denmark, it does become very difficult to predict a starting eleven for a clash of this magnitude. With the visitors playing only a few friendlies to keep themselves fit, Thomasberg might choose a lineup consisting of players who played well in those games.
Thomasberg is expected to go with a 4-4-2, with goalkeeper Patrik Carlgren taking his spot between the post, while Simon Piesinger and Hugo Andersson form the central defensive partnership. Mikkel Kallesoe and Bjorn Kopplin make up the back four, slotting in as the full-backs.
The midfield combination of Lasse Berg Johnsen and Frederik Lauenborg will have to play a crucial role in containing their Leicester counterparts, while Tosin Kehinde and Simon Tibbling will occupy the wide positions. Thomasberg could select Stephen Odey and Alhaji Kamara to form the strike partnership, who will hope to take advantage of Leicester’s recent problems at the back.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Carlgren; Kallesoe, Piesinger, Andersson, Kopplin; Kehinde, Johnsen, Lauenborg, Tibbling; Odey, Kamara
- This will be the first time both teams face each other in any form of competitive football.
- Leicester’s previous other Danish opponent were Copenhagen in the 2016/17 Champions League group stages.
- Leicester City have conceded 12 goals in their last five games across all competitions.
- Leicester City have only won five times in their last 19 games across all competitions.
- Leicester City have just two clean sheets in the last 19 games in all competitions and none in 2022.
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Iheanacho was a force to be reckoned with last season when he was deputising for Jamie Vardy. Back then, the Nigerian forward was in relentless form and had become one of the Foxes’ most important players in the second half of the 2021/22 season. With the team needing inspiration desperately from somewhere, Iheanacho will need to put his hand up and rise to the occasion.
The Randers game comes at a good time, considering Iheanacho is still returning to full match fitness following his participation at the Africa Cup of Nations. This Europa Conference League clash could be the best chance for him to get into a good rhythm and then carry that momentum for the rest of the season.
Leicester City 2-1 Randers
Usually, a top Premier League team is not expected to concede goals against opponents of Randers’ quality. The visitors have not played a competitive game in weeks and are relying on preparations made based on several friendlies. Meanwhile, despite their dismal form, the Foxes come into this clash with top fitness levels, which could be the telling difference-maker in this match.
While Brendan Rodgers is expected to play many of his fringe players, they should prove efficient against their Danish counterparts. The only concern for Leicester is their leaky defence, which could see the visitors score an odd goal.