Nottingham Forest v Leicester
Sunday 6 February, 16:00
Live on BBC One and Betfair Live Video
Holders Leicester make the short trip to Nottingham on Sunday where local pride will be at stake, as well as a place in the last 16 of this season’s FA Cup.
It looks a potentially tricky tie for the Foxes, given Forest sit eighth in the Championship, just two points outside the play-off spots.
They’ve improved markedly since Steve Cooper took the reins in September. After just one point was taken from their first seven games, Forest have flown up the table and are now genuine promotion contenders.
The Tricky Trees have already claimed the scalp of Premier League giants Arsenal at the City Ground in this competition, winning 1-0 last month thanks to a late goal from Lewis Grabban.
But that’s where the bad news starts.
Grabban was injured during last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Cardiff and the top scorer now faces several weeks on the sidelines.
Centre-back Joe Worrall remains out with a fractured rib, while his replacement in recent games, former Bournemouth man Steve Cook, is struggling to make this one due to a calf problem.
The injury issues mean there’s a good chance that recent signings Sam Surridge and Jonathan Panzo come straight into the starting line-up.
Both have worked with Cooper in the past, so he’ll have little hesitation in throwing them in if required.
While overall form has been strong, it’s now three defeats in the last seven for Forest, a run which certainly represents a slow-down.
While they did beat Arsenal, it’s notable that in the league they’ve played nine games against the sides currently above them in the table and won only one.
Problems remain for Leicester
Whatever you think of Leicester’s disappointing season, this will be a step up for Forest.
As ever when it comes to the FA Cup, you wonder what the strength of a Premier League club’s starting XI will be.
Brendan Rodgers made plenty of changes for the third-round clash with Watford, although they still cantered to a 4-1 victory. With this being the first of six games in 19 days for the Foxes, it’s unlikely he’ll be sending out his very best XI here. There’s a trip to Liverpool coming on Thursday before West Ham arrive at the King Power Stadium next weekend.
On the flip side, the league campaign very much has a mid-table feel to it.
The Foxes sit 10th, 11 points clear of the relegation zone, 12 off the top four and even 10 outside the top seven.
You do wonder if the other competitions – Leicester are also in the Europa Conference League – will begin to take on greater importance.
To some extent, Rodgers’ selection will be guided by his list of absentees – it’s been that way all season.
Jamie Vardy, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne and Ryan Bertrand are all still out, while Pape Mendy is at the Africa Cup of Nations.
At least there are some signs of improvement on that front with Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho back from AFCON and full-back Ricardo Pereira fit again – he could play here, although a start seems unlikely. James Justin also recently returned.
Given the defence-heavy injury list, it’s no surprise that Leicester have leaked goals this season. They’ve been particularly poor defending set-pieces and overall only five Premier League rivals have conceded more goals.
It’s been much better at the other end of the pitch though – only the top five have scored more. They’ve scored 30 goals in their last 12 games in all competitions, finding the net in them all.
Patson Daka’s goals have meant Vardy hasn’t been missed too much, while James Maddison has rediscovered something like his best form.
Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman are others who have made good contributions in forward areas.
Foxes can win goal-laden game
Clearly there’s the obvious issue of who will and won’t play, but judged on the likely strength of Leicester, the visitors look capable of winning this.
They are 1.991/1 to win in 90 minutes – Forest are 4.03/1 to spring the upset – but the 4.1 about an away win with both teams scoring looks better value.
Seven of Leicester’s 12 wins this season have come via this method so if you fancy them to win, backing them this way at more than three times the price looks decent.
Both teams to score as a single is at 1.824/5. That’s landed in 70% of Leicester’s games this term, including 10 of their last 12 and their last nine away.
Forest’s record for delivered a BTTS winner is also slightly above 50%.
It looks a better option for Bet Builders than over 2.5 goals, although I wouldn’t put anyone off that either at 1.9310/11.
Yates’ fine dodge
The other bet I like relates to Leicester’s set-piece woes.
Forest’s Ryan Yates is a big aerial threat from corners.
The 6ft 3in midfielder has three goals to his name this season, two from corners.
Most recently, he’s managed eight shots in his last four games. The absence of Worrall has helped on that front, while if Cook is also missing here, Yates may well be the main target for Forest set-plays.
With Leicester’s lax marking suggesting he can dodge the attention of those in blue, Yates is a tempting 15/2 to score at any time.
Youri Tielemans has been directly involved in six goals in his last seven FA Cup appearances (4 goals, 2 assists).
Check out our other FA Cup tips and previews