Preview: Leicester City v. Nottingham Forest
Tomorrow`s East-Midlands derby between Leicester City and Nottingham Forest will be an interesting benchmark for both sides. Leicester, since winning six of seven games to push them to the top of the Championship, have only taken one point from a possible nine, losing their 100 per cent home record at the hands of Crystal Palace last month. Nottingham Forest, on the other hand, have had a mixed start to the season, although just one loss in their last seven games sees Sean O`Driscoll`s men just two points outside the playoff places and looking up. That being said, form has often proved to be beside the point in matches where local bragging rights are on the line for the next few months.
During his two spells at the King Power Stadium, Nigel Pearson has boasted an impressive three wins and one draw in four matches against Nottingham Forest - including a 4-0 FA Cup third-round replay victory back in January, with Jermaine Beckford scoring a hat-trick. While the Foxes` away record against their rivals has not been so impressive, they have managed to share the points in their last two trips to The City Ground, giving Leicester the edge in the recent head-to-head record.
However, Leicester City do have defensive frailties with Paul Konchesky and Sean St. Ledger both unavailable through injury. This has led manager Nigel Pearson to dip into the loan market and secure Manchester United youngsters Michael Keane and Jesse Lingard on one-month deals, which should provide options both in defence and attack. Jeff Schlupp could start at left-back in place of the injured Konchesky, and seems to be thriving in his new makeshift role. The Foxes were able to keep a clean sheet during their last outing on Tuesday night against a Bolton side with Premier League talent in attack. Tomorrow`s match also sees Foxes captain Wes Morgan square off against his boyhood club, with whom he spent thirteen years. The centre-back has been solid for Leicester City this season, and it will be important for Morgan to lead from the back with what is likely to be a young and improvised defence against a team he knows all too well.
Injury to striker Jamie Vardy will open up a number of different options in attack. Pearson may opt for a like-for-like swap and partner Martyn Waghorn alongside David Nugent, or Anthony Knockaert could be used as a second striker, allowing either Lingard or possibly Ben Marshall to start on the wing. While this encounter may lack the feistiness and drama (and seemingly inevitable red card) as Nottingham Forest v. Derby County, both managers will not underestimate the importance of this fixture. Both sides have the potential to be in the play-off mix in May, and will want to show that in front of a televised audience. Leicester`s home record makes them favourites, but this one could be a tight contest.