Manchester City will be hoping to make it a very merry Christmas as they take on Leicester City on Boxing Day.
With Liverpool’s clash against Leeds postponed, City have a chance to further extend their lead at the top of the table when the Foxes visit the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side is in excellent form going into the match, having won their last eight Premier League fixtures in succession, and he should have a near-fully fit squad available for the match.
Right-back Kyle Walker, who has missed the last two games because of an unspecified problem, remains a doubt though and Ferran Torres is still sidelined.
Leicester, meanwhile, are in the midst of an injury crisis as they will definitely be without Harvey Barnes, James Justin and Wesley Fofana while Jamie Vardy, Daniel Amartey, Hamza Choudhury, Jonny Evans and Timothy Castagna are doubts.
No Dias and no Rodri would be very problematic for City. Fernandinho has not been close to his best this season, so Kayky’s inclusion could suggest that Ilkay Gundogan is the preferred option in holding midfield with De Bruyne and Bernardo ahead of him.
Gundogan, Laporte, Fernandinho, Kayky, Palmer, Bernardo, Jesus, Foden, Grealish, Mbete, Steffen, Cancelo, Ederson, Bernardo, De Bruyne, Carson, Zinchenko, Sterling, Mahrez
Didn’t see Dias, Stones, or Rodri getting off the bus.
Christmas Day was the start of things going very wrong very quickly for City last year as the first few positive tests came in before their Boxing Day game with Newcastle. Thankfully, or perhaps in part because so many in the squad got Covid last winter and have had it since, City haven’t been too badly affected this year and Guardiola has almost a full selection to choose from.
There isn’t the obligatory mask-wearing that Guardiola called for around the stadium but there are lots more Covid spot-checks going on today outside the turnstiles as the club readapts to the Plan B protocols that the Premier League has put in place. There was a feeling of trepidation for the last home game here against Leeds with uncertainty around the new variant, but happily the data since appears to have been more encouraging so everyone here should be able to enjoy their Boxing Day football.
The chance to open a gap of six points on Liverpool, and nine on Chelsea, is quite an incentive for the Blues today.
But Leicester seem to have been a fly in their ointment ever since pep Guardiola took over at City – his only Boxing Day defeat was inflicted by the Foxes, at the King Power, back in 2018 – but ultimately did not derail their title push.
Throw in the one-soded 4-2 thrashing handed out by Vardy, Mahrez and Co in his debut season, at last season’s sobering 5-2 shocker at the Etihad, and all the warnings are there for the City players, whose home form has not been the greatest.
The 1-0 win at the King Power earlier in the season went some way towards easing the pain of that big home defeat, but victory today would lay it to rest.
City have a mostly fit squad for the visit of Leicester but will be without Ferran Torres and Kyle Walker remains a doubt after missing the last two games.
When asked about the right-back, Pep Guardiola said: “He wasn’t fit that’s why he wasn’t playing.”
Aleks Zinchenko has started the last four games for City, his best run since September 2019. With no sign of Kyle Walker in training when the players returned from their mini-break on Wednesday, the left-back will be hoping to keep his place in the team for at least another game. His defensive work left a bit to be desired in the first half at Newcastle but he did provide a pinpoint assist for Riyad Mahrez to score the third.
Jurgen Klopp has his wish for a lighter Christmas schedule thanks to Leeds postponing their game today, but it does mean that City can be six points clear of their Merseyside rivals if they beat Leicester today. A terrific December for Guardiola’s side has finally seen them hit the top of the table, and if they can end the month well this period could be looked back on as the defining time in the title race.
Manchester City begin their Christmas schedule with a difficult home fixture against Leicester on Boxing Day.
City will be looking to get revenge for their Community Shield defeat to Brendan Rodgers’ men at the very start of the season and know a win will take them six points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table.
With Liverpool’s clash against Leeds postponed, City have the chance to open up a clear gap between them and second, even if they’ll have played an extra game.
Pep Guardiola wasn’t giving too much away in his pre-match press conference on Thursday, with preparations for the game beginning later that day. Later, training footage showed 22 players getting ready for the game, but Kyle Walker was not among them.
Walker has missed the last two games with fitness issues, and may face a race against time to be ready to face the Foxes.
This is the beginning of our Boxing Day live blog for Manchester City vs Leicester City. As always, the entries that are nearest the top are our most recent ones.
For this one, Pep Guardiola is expected to set his side up with: Ederson; Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne; Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus. Then, Leicester should start with: Kasper Schmeichel; Marc Albrighton, Jannik Vestergaard, Wilfred Ndidi, Luke Thomas; Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Youri Tielemans, Boubakary Soumare; James Maddison, Patson Daka, Ademola Lookman.
This Boxing Day fixture is one of the 15:00 GMT kick offs, which sadly means it won’t be on TV in the UK. That means a 10:00 ET and 07:00 PT kick off for viewers in the USA, who can watch it live on Peacock.