27 min: “Vardy’s style of play will never inspire poetry. It’s too simple. Work hard constantly, always on the attack, score goals. All match long … it’s not stylish, but is more effective than many players we ooh and ahh over,” observes Mary Waltz.
24 min: That’s more threatening though, Henderson doing well to block Perez’s angled blast from a looping Evans delivery to the far post. A subsequent shot deflects wide and the hosts have a corner. Henderson catches that.
22 min: Leicester work the ball at length, seeking an opening, but Sheffield United’s off-the-ball structure is impermeable and eventually it’s played all the way back to Schmeichel.
20 min: If push came to shove you suspect the Blades would take a point here, although it would keep them out of the top seven – and a likely Europa League spot – on goal difference. Leicester really need the win for their Champions League hopes and are playing with urgency.
17 min: A Leicester corner comes to nothing, but this game is rattling along quite pleasantly in the early evening sun just now. Barnes lets fly from 20 yards but pings it against an unwitting Vardy and behind.
16 min: Tielemans sends Vardy scampering into *acres* on the left with men steaming into the area, looking for an accurate cross. They don’t get one: Vardy overhits it badly and that’s quite a waste.
14 min: But they now concede a silly corner, Evans overcooking a backpass that Schmeichel can’t keep in on the stretch. Will they be punished? Nope, Schmeichel punching a good Norwood delivery away with McGoldrick challenging. The Blades then win a dangerous free-kick on the right, enjoying a chance to mount some serious pressure. Egan rises at the far post but nods well over.
12 min: And Vardy comes close now! Justin delivers from the right and Vardy, making space at the near post after his first attempt is blocked, sees an angled effort blocked by Henderson’s foot. Leicester are knocking at the door.
11 min: Barnes eats up ground with a driving run and seeks to play Vardy through on the inside-left, but a defender *just* deflects the ball past him and out for a throw.
9 min: Fairly good chance for Perez, who is found at the far post by an excellent swinging delivery from Thomas. He should probably get his header on target but puts it high and wide. Thomas has begun well.
8 min: Sheffield United are looking for quick, wide switches and work it nicely to Stevens that way. But he loses possession and a chance to spring forward fades.
7 min: It’s been a high-tempo start with Leicester, after that early scare, clearly trying to come out on the front foot.
5 min: That one reaches Evans, who has peeled off at the far post, but nobody can really connect with his header across.
4 min: Now Thomas wins Leicester a corner with his first action, showing good early appetite to get forward. They could do with a flying start. Tielemans’ delivery isn’t great but Leicester maintain the pressure, a wobbly Tielemans shot eventually being deflected for another flag kick …
2 min: Almost a great start for the Blades, slicing Leicester apart on the right before Baldock lays back for McGoldrick, under considerable pressure from the attentive Justin, to sky his shot.
The teams are emerging at the King Power! The Blades in white shirts, black shorts … and the Foxes in the famous blue and white.
So good to see David McGoldrick, a player I *absolutely love*, breaking his top-flight duck and scoring twice against Chelsea. Did you know Leicester bid for him in August 2014, while he was with Ipswich, but it was rejected? How differently things might have turned out for McGoldrick, now 32, and Leicester – who won the league the following season – if the Tractor Boys had said yay.
More on Luke Thomas: he’s an England under-19 international and has played in the EFL Trophy for Leicester’s second string this season. He’s well rated by Rodgers and his staff.
If you haven’t seen Chris Wilder on Jamie Vardy by now, you probably should!
One last plug – promise! Simon Burnton has Everton v Aston Villa for you. I watched Everton turn in a stunningly awful performance at Molineux on Sunday; surely they can’t get any worse …
Paul Doyle is capable of many fine things, and “write a darned good preview of Leicester v Sheffield United” happens to be one of them.
Will Leeds be joining these two in the top flight next season? Scott Murray has their huge game with Barnsley here:
Leicester field a debutant! Congratulations to 18-year-old left-back, Luke Thomas, who makes his senior bow here. At the other end of the age spectrum, 36-year-old Wes Morgan starts in the league for the first time since late December, a situation necessitated by Caglar Soyuncu’s suspension. You look at that team, see the list of other absentees – Chilwell, Maddison, Pereira – and realise Leicester are going to have to squeak over the line.
The Blades don’t change a thing from their 3-0 walloping of Chelsea. And why would they?
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Bennett, Morgan, Evans; Justin, Ndidi, Tielemans, Thomas; Perez, Barnes; Vardy. Subs: Ward, Johnson, Mendy, Choudhury, James, Praet, Gray, Hirst, Iheanacho.
Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Osborn, Stevens; McGoldrick, McBurnie. Subs: Jagielka, Lundstram, Robinson, Mousset, Moore, Freeman, Sharp, Zivkovic, Fleck.
Take all that in, and I’ll be back shortly with some reaction.
We continue with The Football. And potentially some very good football. This is a match with implications that will resonate throughout the top half of table, whichever way it might swing.
Are Leicester in crisis? Nope. Next. They’re fourth on goal difference and would have bitten your hand off for that a year ago, and perhaps a sizeable chunk of wrist too. But they are certainly on a bad run, and one that threatens to cancel out the supreme work they did before Christmas. That defeat at Bournemouth was bruising, undone by a couple of minutes of sheer madness, but then if it’s good enough for Liverpool! They do need a result today, and defeat in particular would start you questioning even their Europa League credentials. But this hasn’t become a bad team overnight: it’s probably one that overperformed a little earlier in the year and, hampered by key injuries and a dip in joie de vivre, hasn’t managed to get that momentum back. People will, you sense, be queuing up to get the Brendan gags in if they fail now, but let’s be better than that. They’re great fun to watch, at their best, and it’d be lovely to see them back in the Champions League.
You can’t *quite* rule out the Blades pipping them to exactly that outcome if they win here and move two points behind the Foxes. The season’s surprise success story seem more likely to end up in the Europa spots though and I’ve been really impressed by how they’ve arrested a post-lockdown slump to come back and fairly pelt the likes of Spurs and Chelsea. It really isn’t easy to pick yourselves up and go again like that, but Chris Wilder has already shown he’s nigh on a miracle worker. A victory would put them sixth, above Spurs and Wolves. They are the most impressive promoted side since Ipswich in 2000-01, for me, and it’d be great to see them finish the job.
No holds barred out there, then, we hope! It’s a big one. Let’s take it in together; send in your emails and tweets to the addresses above!