Fulham v Leicester: Good chance for Cottagers to exploit Vardy's absence

Andrew Atherley says Fulham can upset Brendan Rodgers' side again at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night...

Fulham v Leicester
Wednesday 3 February, 18:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Parker faces key decision

Fulham have the advantage over their opponents of an extra day's rest since their 2-2 draw at fellow strugglers West Brom on Saturday.

The Cottagers took an early lead at the Hawthorns and had the chances to take full control before half-time but in the end they had to fight back for a draw after going 2-1 down.

With Brighton and Newcastle both winning, Fulham came out of the weekend seven points adrift of safety, albeit with a game in hand on Brighton.

Scott Parker could freshen up his starting XI with recalls for Ivan Cavaleiro, Harrison Reed and Kenny Tete, who all made substitute appearances at West Brom.

The key decision may well be whether to go with Cavaleiro's speed or Aleksandar Mitrovic's physical presence up front.

Tom Cairney and Terence Kongolo are still on the injury list.

Leicester lose valuable ground

Leicester's title challenge suffered a significant blow with Sunday's 3-1 home defeat by Leeds, pushing them down to fourth behind the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool.

That ended a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions and they will be looking to bounce back quickly and stay in the title race, or at least shore up their place in the top four.

Jamie Vardy remains sidelined following his hernia operation and Wilfried Ndidi, another key player, is also still out with a hamstring injury.

Timothy Castagne and Wesley Fofana, both substituted against Leeds, are the latest to join the injury list, which also includes Dennis Praet and Wes Morgan.

The good news for Brendan Rodgers is that Ricardo Pereira can step in for Castagne at right-back and Caglar Soyuncu can come in for Fofana in central defence. Cengiz Under and Kelechi Iheanacho are also in contention for starting places.

Fulham bidding for double

Fulham certainly pose a threat to Leicester, having won the reverse fixture 2-1 on November 30 after establishing a two-goal lead by half-time through Ademola Lookman and a Cavaleiro penalty.

Parker's side haven't won again since then, however, and their high draw rate has cost them the chance to make inroads into their deficit at the bottom.

Their league record starting with the Leicester match is W1 D7 L3, which highlights how competitive they have been but without having enough of a killer touch.

The three defeats in that run were against the two Manchester sides and Chelsea, but they face a team of similar quality here and this is clearly a tough proposition.

Leicester rank second in the Premier League away table with a W7 D2 L1 record (only Manchester City can top that) and they remain best suited to a counter-attacking style on the road.

That style is hard to neutralise, with their sole away defeat coming at Liverpool (the two draws were at Crystal Palace and Everton, both 1-1). By contrast, Rodgers' side have lost five out of 11 at home, where teams generally defend deeper against them.

The Foxes have missed Vardy again in his latest absence, having drawn 1-1 at Everton before the Leeds defeat, and their overall league record without him this season is W1 D2 L2.

With Fulham also having achieved better results with a counter-attacking ploy, this match could come down to a game of chicken with both teams preferring to wait for opportunities on the break.

Leicester have shown their capabilities in that kind of match, scoring at least two goals in six of their seven away wins, and clearly have the best win chance at 2.02.

Fulham are capable of upsetting them again, however, and well worth considering at 3.1 on draw no bet.

Without Vardy, Leicester have less of an edge and Fulham look capable of making this a close match, with a decent chance of a win if they are positive enough.

Vardy absence impacts goals

Over 2.5 goals is the outsider at 2.0 but arguably should be favourite given that Leicester have scored in every away match apart from the Liverpool defeat while keeping only three clean sheets in 10 road games.

Fulham have tightened up as the season has gone on, which helps to explain their recent high draw rate, but have scored in three of their four meetings with top-four sides.

Over 2.5 goals would be a decent shout if Vardy was playing but admittedly it is more of a toss-up now. Four of Leicester's five league matches without him this season have had under 2.5 goals and they haven't scored more than once in any of those games.

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