How Leicester City could line up when they take on West Ham with their Premier League future on the line as Smith decides whether to stick with the formation from Newcastle
James Maddison is likely to return to the Leicester City starting line-up even if Dean Smith chooses to stick with a five-at-the-back formation for this weekend’s relegation decider.
City’s star man Maddison was left out of the 11 at Newcastle as Smith opted for a defence-first approach that secured the club’s first Premier League clean sheet for more than six months. But in a must-win game against West Ham in which City’s fate will be sealed, Maddison is very likely to come back into the 11.
Smith has said he wants to get the balance right in his side, craving both defensive security but also more creativity than shown against Newcastle, when City had just one shot. For that, he may revert to a four-at-the-back system.
Maddison will definitely return to the side in that case, likely on the right of a front three. If Smith wanted to play him in the middle, then it’s possible that Dennis Praet or Tete will operate on the flank.
That formation would also see the club’s top scorer Harvey Barnes come back into the team. He too was left out at Newcastle, but would play on the left wing, the other side of Jamie Vardy.
Those changes mean one of City’s three centre-backs must make way and Harry Souttar seems the likeliest candidate to drop out, with Wout Faes and Jonny Evans playing together in a back four the previous week against Liverpool.
There is a chance that there could be two changes at centre-back but that depends on Caglar Soyuncu’s fitness. If deemed available to play, the Turk could come in to play alongside Evans, who, as captain, is set to keep his spot.
There could be another change in the back four if Ricardo Pereira overcomes a tight hamstring, but if he does not, then Luke Thomas will likely keep his place at left-back.
Even if Smith wanted to keep the back five, Maddison would likely still be brought into the side. Smith was disappointed with the connection between his midfielders and strikers against Newcastle, and so introducing Maddison to the midfield three would provide that bridge to Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho, who may again start before being replaced when he tires.
The manager would then have to decide which of Wilfred Ndidi, Boubakary Soumare, and Youri Tielemans to leave out from the midfield, with Ndidi perhaps the likeliest candidate for omission. Soumare and Tielemans have been consistently selected under Smith.
Predicted City line-up (4-3-3): Iversen; Castagne, Faes, Evans, Thomas; Ndidi, Soumare, Tielemans; Maddison, Vardy, Barnes.
Alternative City line-up (5-3-2): Iversen; Castagne, Souttar, Evans, Faes, Thomas; Soumare, Tielemans, Maddison; Iheanacho, Vardy.
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