Man City vs Leicester: the most unlikely title decider ever?
Comparisons between the teams may appear ridiculous, but Vardy and Mahrez could outshine Aguero and Sterling
Another week and another acid test for Leicester City's title ambitions. But their latest assignment could be their toughest yet, as the Foxes travel to second-placed Manchester City in what could turn out to be this season's title decider.
The game marks the beginning of a tough run-in which sees Claudio Ranieri's team visit not just City, but also Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. But who would write off Leicester after their exploits so far this season?
This weekend's fixture is "one of the most unlikely top-of-the-table clashes in recent Premier League history", says Goal.com, and when you look at the two teams, "the comparisons are jarring".
The head-to-heads appear faintly ridiculous in print. But Goal lists the key battlegrounds:
- City manager Manuel Pellegrini, formerly of Real Madrid and soon to be replaced by Pep Guardiola, versus Ranieri, who was sacked by Greece before taking over from Nigel Pearson in the summer.
- Consider the merits of Leicester's journeyman striker Jamie Vardy, once of Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town, against to those of Sergio Aguero, who cost City £38m from Atletico Madrid - yet it is Vardy who tops the scoring charts this season.
- In midfield, the Foxes will rely on Riyad Mahrez, the £400,000 Algerian with 13 goals to his name this season, while City will give the ball to Raheem Sterling, a £49m man who has just five goals and three assists in the league.
- Leicester's midfield enforcer is N'Golo Kante, a £5.6m purchase from Caen. He will be up against Fernandinho and footballing royalty in Yaya Toure.
The list goes on - Nicolas Otamendi against Robert Huth at the back, Joe Hart and Kasper Schmeichel in goal…
The Daily Mail says City's starting line-up on Saturday is likely to be worth around £235m. Leicester's team cost a tenth of that.
But perhaps the most notable fact about the match is that it has overshadowed Manchester United's clash with Chelsea.
"When this season began, no-one could have predicted that, of all the games this weekend, Leicester's trip to Manchester City would be the one billed as a title decider," says the newspaper.
So who will win? It seems that no matter what Leicester do, they will never convince the pundits. Both Paul Merson of Sky Sports and Mark Lawrenson of the BBC admit the Foxes' counter-attacking style is perfectly suited to take on City and that they have the division's best away record. But both predict a home win.
However, with Man City missing several key players, including Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and Kevin de Bruyne, Leicester could spring yet another shock.