Nouble Set to Start at Leicester
Friday, 21st Feb 2014 12:22
Frank Nouble looks set to be the man to replace injured top scorer David McGoldrick when the Blues take on league leaders Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Manager Mick McCarthy has ruled out Sylvan Ebanks-Blake playing from the off – “He’s not ready to start” – and has hinted that Paul Taylor will have to win a place in his side: “He’s got to get in the team and when he gets in the team he’s got play well enough to stay in it.”
McCarthy has also dismissed playing a five-man midfield against the high-flying Foxes and so Nouble seems set to line-up alongside Daryl Murphy – recalled to the Ireland squad yesterday – in place of McGoldrick, who is facing around 12 weeks on the sidelines having suffered a partial tear of the medial ligament in his right knee.
The Town boss has other decisions to make elsewhere in his side with Scott Loach having impressed in goal in place of Dean Gerken in last week’s 0-0 home draw with Blackpool.
Gerken is now over his neck problem and has been McCarthy’s favoured keeper this season, however, the Blues manager has tended to stick with players who have come into the side and done well, so Loach could well get only his second league start since August at the King Power Stadium.
Aaron Cresswell is a shoo-in at left-back, while Luke Chambers is likely to continue at right-back, despite Frazer Richardson having got an U21 match under his belt earlier in the week. Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra will continue at the heart of the defence.
McCarthy will be forced into one change from the midfield which started the Blackpool game with Luke Hyam ruled out with the hamstring problem which forced him off in the early stages until the Middlesbrough match in a fortnight’s time.
Paul Green could come in alongside Cole Skuse in the centre with Stephen Hunt likely to continue on the left, while Carlos Edwards may get the nod ahead of Paul Anderson on the right, the former Bristol City man having put in a disappointing display from the bench last week.
Alternatively, Green could start on the right with Jay Tabb or perhaps even Ryan Tunnicliffe in the centre if a loan deal to bring the Fulham midfielder back to Portman Road can be done with the same haste as the recent move for Green.
McCarthy has said all season that Leicester are the best team in the division and believes they have stepped up a level since losing in the play-off semi-finals to Watford last season.
“Jamie Vardy is probably more of a handful. He came in from Fleetwood and was an instant hit but he’s a proper player, along with David Nugent,” he said.
“Nigel Pearson’s got Danny Drinkwater and Matty James playing in the centre of the park, I think Drinkwater is probably the best midfield player in the Championship by a good stretch.
“Lloyd Dyer and Anthony Knockaert are two really top wingers. I think it’s probably the side, in the main, that lost [in the play-offs last year]: Paul Konchesky, Wes Morgan, Marcin Wasilewski, the big Polish centre-back, who I think has done really well, Ritchie De Laet and Kasper Schmeichel. Then they’ve got Liam Moore.
“Chris Wood doesn’t even get a game and he was the best centre forward in the league last year. I think they’ve just regrouped.
“I think they were as good as anybody last year, I just think they’ve taken it to a different level this year, whether that’s down to confidence or maybe being a year wiser. They’ve stuck together, they stuck with the manager, they’re just a top, top team.”
The Town boss says he relishes challenges like Saturday with few expecting the Blues to grab all three points from a fixture they lost 6-0 last season.
“I guess we’ve got everything to gain, we’ve got something to lose, but I don’t think anybody is thinking that we’re going to go up there and win,” he said. “That’s the little sprat that’s up there that we can catch.
“It would be nice and it would be nice to put on more of a show than we did last year because we got absolutely slapped. That was embarrassing.”
Town will be in their red and black away kit in which they are yet to record a victory.
The Foxes will be without left-back Paul Konchesky, who was red-carded in the 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest in midweek, while one-time Town target Sean St Ledger (groin) and Tom Hopper (shin) are also sidelined.
Town have had the upper hand historically, winning 27 games between the sides (27 in the league), drawing 18 (17) and losing 25 (23).
Leicester are currently top of the table on 68 points, eight ahead of Burnley in second and 23 above the Blues in ninth. The Foxes are unbeaten in 12 in the Championship stretching back to early December, winning nine and drawing three, including their last two games.
They have lost only once in the Championship at the King Power Stadium this season, a 2-0 reverse against Nottingham Forest in November, winning 11 and drawing three.
In November, David Nugent continued his remarkable goalscoring record against the Blues as Leicester came from behind to beat Town 2-1 at Portman Road.
David McGoldrick put Town in front in the second minute but Nugent – who took his total to 13 goals in 12 matches against the Blues and nine in seven at Portman Road – scored twice in six minutes as the Foxes improved after the break.
Last time the teams met at the King Power Stadium, in November 2012, shortly after Mick McCarthy took over as manager, Town fell to their second successive hammering on the road as they were smashed 6-0.
Inevitably Nugent scored twice early on, the first a penalty, with Lloyd Dyer, Anthony Knockaert, Martyn Waghorn and Marko Futacs netting the rest.
Leicester manager Pearson was interviewed for the job as Town boss in 2006 but lost out to Jim Magilton, while no current player from either side has represented Saturday’s opposition.
Fans travelling by car should note that Leicester are warning that there may be disruption in the city due to the demolition of a flyover.
Saturday’s referee is James Linington from Newport, Isle of Wight, who has shown 73 yellow cards and six red in 24 games so far this season.
Linington’s most recent Town match was the 3-1 home victory over Middlesbrough in September when he booked Luke Chambers, Luke Hyam and one Boro player.
Squad from: Loach, Gerken, Chambers, Richardson, Cresswell, Mings, Smith, Berra, Skuse, Green, Tabb, Wordsworth, Anderson, Edwards, Hunt, Murphy, Nouble, Taylor, Ebanks-Blake, Lee.
Photo: Action Images
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