Leicester City v Tottenham: Crisis-hit Conte can find a solution

Both Leicester City and Tottenham have suffered from COVID-19 outbreaks but the clash at the King Power looks set to go ahead and Kevin Hatchard believes the visitors can avoid defeat...

Leaky Leicester have work to do

If ever a team needed a positive result, it was Leicester City as they prepared to face Newcastle. They had just been knocked out of the Europa League thanks to a defeat at Napoli, and just weeks after manager Brendan Rodgers had been linked with a move to Manchester United, there was speculation about his future for a more negative reason.

However, the Foxes demolished hapless Newcastle 4-0, giving themselves a much-required confidence boost and a rare clean sheet. Youri Tielemans and James Maddison scored three of the four goals between them, and were both excellent on the day, while Patson Daka got a goal and an assist. The Zambian is starting to show why he was so consistently successful at his old club Salzburg.

That said, there were scares. Timothy Castagne nearly scored a bizarre own goal, and the off-form Caglar Soyuncu looked typically jittery in the opening exchanges.

Going into this set of midweek fixtures, Leicester had the worst defensive record in the top half of the table, with 27 goals leaked in 16 games.

Like Tottenham, Leicester have been hit by COVID-19 of late, and there are doubts over a clutch of players that include Ayoze Perez, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ademola Lookman and Jannik Vestergaard. Jonny Evans damaged a hamstring against Newcastle, and isn't expected to feature here.

Spurs racing to be back in action

A game that for quite some time appeared to be off may well now be on, with Spurs able to re-open their training complex after a COVID-19 outbreak saw their games against Rennes and Brighton junked. Obviously the clash with the Seagulls will take place in the future, but the Rennes game won't, and Tottenham are still waiting to hear if their Europa Conference League campaign is over as a result.

Spurs are expected to be without a number of players after positive tests, and that list is thought to include Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura, Oliver Skipp and Emerson Royal. All four players would've been in with a decent chance of being selected by Antonio Conte for the starting XI here, and the Italian coach is definitely without centre-back Cristian Romero because of long term injury. Rampaging wing-back Sergio Reguilon is also a doubt.

Conte's arrival in North London has been largely positive so far. He has overseen four straight home wins in league and cup, along with a 0-0 draw at Everton although the run does include the UECL debacle against Mura, when Spurs were humiliated in a 2-1 defeat against the champions of Slovenia.

With games in hand on their rivals in the race for the top four, Tottenham are in decent shape, and at time of writing they are trading at 4.6 in the Top 4 market.

It's also worth bearing in mind that at some stage, England skipper Harry Kane will surely come to life. Regardless of his frustrations, he is too good a player to be this ineffective for much longer. Kane delivered 23 goals and 14 assists in the Premier League last season, and although he only has one goal and one assist this time around, Conte's tactical acumen and man-management skills are likely to bear fruit.

Don't be distracted by COVID crisis

Tottenham have had terrible preparation for this game in many ways, and they are missing a number of key players. However, they still have the potential to field a strong side here which includes a world-class striker and a clutch of internationals, and some of the players have had a very rare rest. Tottenham haven't played since they hammered Norwich 3-0 on December 5.

Leicester were excellent against Newcastle, but the Magpies are one of the division's worst sides, so I'm not sure how much that tells us about their chances here. The absence of Evans is a real blow, and it's worth remembering that the Foxes have won just three of their last 10 games in all competitions.

Conte has only overseen one defeat so far, and I think he'll find a way to dig in for a positive result. I'll back Tottenham +0 & +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.04. If Spurs win, we get an odds-against success, and if the game is drawn we still make a profit.

Alternatively, you could use the Bet Builder to back Tottenham/Draw Double Chance and Over 1.5 Goals at 2.02. There have been at least two goals in Leicester's last 15 competitive games.

Kane to find his rhythm?

It seems absurd to back a striker who has only scored once in the league this season to shine, but Harry Kane looks a decent price to have two or more shots on target at 1.83.

Against Norwich he had five goal attempts, two of which were on target. He had an effort on target against Brentford, and scored against Mura. If we purely look at his four PL games under Conte, Kane has had 13 shots, and has seen four of those hit the target. Without Son and Lucas Moura, Kane will have to bear the attacking load.

Against a shaky Leicester defence that has given up 4.81 shots on target per 90 in this Premier League campaign, I think Kane is worth backing. If you want to keep it simple and just back Kane to score, you can do so at 2.1.

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