West Ham and Leicester had similar Premier League targets prior to the start of the season but find themselves in wildly different positions ahead of their meeting at the former team’s London Stadium on Saturday (12.30pm ET).
The teams finished level on points last season and whether it was realistic or not, both aimed to take a step forward from their lower top 10 finishes and challenge for a place in the top six or seven this time around.
Leicester have gone one better than that to emerge as probable top four finishers (heavily odds-on with the US offshore bookmakers), with a place amongst the top three also looking very possible at this stage. West Ham are at the other end of the table, just a point clear of the bottom three, with odds that give them a greater than 20% chance of going down.
The Hammers actually made a good start to the campaign, winning three and losing just one of their opening six fixtures. It has very much been downhill from there. Just two more wins have followed in their subsequent 12 fixtures, alongside eight defeats and two draws.
The latest of those losses came away to Crystal Palace on Boxing Day. Their hosts created the better chances and although West Ham went ahead through Robert Snodgrass just before the hour, Palace fairly swiftly equalized and then took all three points with a solo effort in the final minute.
It wasn’t the first time this season that West Ham have failed to hold onto a lead. It certainly isn’t their only problem. Mediocre attacking output, combined with poor top-line and dreadful underlying defensive numbers are the primary concerns. Given those issues, leaving 15 points on the table from winning positions is a difficult thing to overcome.
The sum is that West Ham are now just a place and a point above the relegation zone. They have played a match less than those around them, but given that their makeup fixture is against runaway league leaders Liverpool, it likely represents their genuine position. Manuel Pellegrini struck a somewhat dejected tone in his comments after the Palace defeat and will struggle to maintain his job if things don’t soon pick up.
Today’s opponents Leicester were on the full receiving end of Liverpool’s strength in a 0-4 home defeat on Boxing Day. They were dominated from the opening whistle and their visitors had already created a couple of good chances before taking the lead just past the half hour. Leicester worked almost nothing in front of goal and Liverpool then added to the scoreline during the final twenty minutes.
It was a second consecutive loss for Leicester, but given that they have been to Liverpool and Manchester City, the teams likely to finish first and second, there is no real reason for concern. It has, in general, been a superb first half of the season for them. Twelve wins from 19 matches have given them a seven-point cushion over Chelsea in fourth and a 10-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur in fifth.
Leicester always looked better placed than West Ham to leap forward this season. They have been shrewd transfer market operators over the last few years, accumulating a collection of young and talented players in a successful refresh of that side that so surprisingly lifted the Premier League trophy in 2015-16. The appointment of Brendan Rodgers as head coach midway through last season seems to have been the final part of the jigsaw.
Despite the four goals they shipped on Boxing Day, Leicester still have one of the best defensive records in the division. Their attacking numbers are a bit inflated by their exceptional 9-0 away demolition of Southampton earlier this season, but even if you took half of those goals away from them, they would still be the league’s third highest scorers. In short, they are a genuinely good side.
They have also shown themselves to be pretty ruthless in seeing off lower table opposition, winning eight of their nine fixtures against sides currently positioned in the bottom half and thrashing Aston Villa (4-1) away from home in addition to the aforementioned Southampton win. Leicester can be fancied to extend that record against a beleaguered West Ham side today.
Our Preview’s West Ham vs. Leicester City Predictions & Betting Tips Verdict
Bet on Leicester -0.5 of a goal on the spread @ best odds of -108 with 5Dimes.