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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Lively Foxes may provide United with a stern test

Key players Vardy and Mahrez are playing well for Leicester

Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring for Leicester at Arsenal
1 of 1

Premier League
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

Manchester United have been faultless at the start of the Premier League season but may have to overcame a sterner challenge when facing free-scoring Leicester at Old Trafford.

The markets rate the contest a home banker and plenty of punters will be keen to steam into the Red Devils, who registered two easy victories over the Foxes last season - 4-1 in Manchester and 3-0 at the King Power Stadium.

United's marquee signing Romelu Lukaku has hit the ground running, scoring four goals in three competitive games, and Paul Pogba is starting to show why he commanded such a huge fee last summer.

Pogba netted in the 4-0 wins over West Ham and Swansea and is already only three goals short of the modest five-goal league tally he amassed last season.

The early evidence suggests United will improve on last season's sixth place but it may be too early to mark them down as major title contenders - they are second favourites behind neighbours Manchester City.

United's Champions League draw looks favourable but playing in Europe's top competition is likely to put a greater strain on the squad than the Europa League did last season.

However, there is clear potential for United to continue their flying start in the league.

They do not have to face any of last season's top six until visiting Liverpool in mid-October, so they have a great opportunity to establish themselves among the early front-runners.

Last season United had big problems at home and shared the spoils in ten of their 19 league games at Old Trafford.

This season is likely to be different and United's firepower will increase at around the halfway point of the campaign when Zlatan Ibrahimovic - who re-signed for the club this week - is due to recover from a long-term knee injury.

Ibrahimovic's arrival only increases the feelgood vibe at the club but the danger is that Leicester's challenge is taken too lightly

Craig Shakespeare's side were leading 3-2 at Arsenal with less than ten minutes left on the clock and they responded to their north London defeat with a comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Brighton.

Their big players - Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez - are playing well and summer signing Harry Maguire has made such an assured start that he has earned a call up to the England squad.

However, Maguire was withdrawn with a minor injury towards the end of Leicester's 4-1 victory at Sheffield United in Tuesday's EFL Cup second round tie and is a doubt, having missing training towards the end of the week.

With Robert Huth still sidelined, Maguire's absence would present a problem.

A makeshift rearguard featuring Christian Fuchs at centre-back was enough to cope against a Sheffield United side sporting eight changes from the previous game but a similar setup would surely crumble against a confident United.

Maguire's fitness is key to Leicester's chances of avoiding defeat but, either way, the visitors can threaten in attack and get themselves on the scoresheet.

Recommendation
Both teams to score
1pt 11-10 Betfred

Bet on this match at soccerbase.com


Team news
Man Utd
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) still faces a long road to recovery and Marcos Rojo (knee) is also out.

Leicester
Harry Maguire and Kelechi Iheanacho have minor injuries and face late fitness tests. Danny Drinkwater and Wes Morgan are in full training but Vicente Iborra and Robert Huth remain sidelined.

Key stat
Leicester have scored in six of their last seven matches against Manchester United.

Craig Shakespeare's side were leading 3-2 at Arsenal with less than ten minutes left on the clockand they responded to their north London defeat well
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