Leicester City vs Sunderland: Will either of the Premier League strugglers stay up?

Leicester City 0-0 Sunderland

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The Independent Football

Beleaguered Leicester City welcomed Sunderland to the East Midlands this weekend having not scored a goal in over 400 minutes of Premier League football.

By the end of ninety minutes, as a ripple of boos rung around the King Power Stadium, that tally was added to further as the likes of Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy fired blanks once again. The joys of that memorable 5-3 demolition of Manchester United have long been forgotten.

Nigel Pearson, who has lead the Foxes to both Championship and League One title successes during two spells with the Foxes, admitted afterwards that criticism sent his way was justified.

Sunderland, on the other hand, had enjoyed a renaissance in fortunes of late, and were looking to build upon the four points picked up against Crystal Palace and Everton.

The Black Cats were expected to challenge for a top half finish this season after the impressive turnaround in form under Gus Poyet towards the backend of last season.

The 8-0 capitulation at St. Mary’s, to a resurgent Southampton side, however, suggested yet another scrap for survival was on the cards at the Stadium of Light.

At full time, an upbeat Poyet said: “We will need to not make any mistakes, be organised and be brave on the ball so we’re not defending all the time – you need plenty of things to be very good on the day, but we’ve done it in the past, so we can do it again.”

 

The hosts started brightly with Vardy proving to be his typically menacing self while Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez, recalled to the side after weeks on the sidelines, skipped in between the Sunderland defenders with ease. With Esteban Cambiasso, looking every part the season professional Leicester hoped he would, pulling the strings, the early signs were positive for Pearson’s troops.

Without a goal since 4th October, during a 2-2 draw with Burnley, they needed to be.

The initiative, though, was lost mid-way through the opening forty-five minutes as Sunderland forced Kasper Schmeichel into a host of important saves – some of which were truly stunning. The former Manchester City and Leeds United goalkeeper could be Leicester’s biggest asset as the season hurtles into the pivotal Christmas period.

While both sides oddly showed enough conviction up front, despite the eventual stalemate, it was in defence where their frailties were exposed.

Both with a goal difference of minus seven, despite only being a third of the way through the campaign, the team who plugs the gaps at the back will most likely fare better. Despite boasting £12m striker Steven Fletcher among their ranks, the visitors posed little-to-no threat in the final third.

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Leicester manager Nigel Pearson

While Hull City may well have shown last year that a prolific striker isn’t necissarily essential to secure survival, with neither Nikica Jelavic or Shane Long reaching double figures, it can never be considered a positive to have a tame forward line.

With Burnley finding form, courtesy of victories over the Tigers and now Stoke City on Saturday, and Queens Park Rangers showing early signs of recovery – both Leicester and Sunderland could well be sunk before they find time to rectify their problems.

"We need to play like that more often," Pearson said afterwards. "If the players play in that fashion we will be fine.

"We created chances but it didn't quite go our way. I am pretty pleased with the performance, and it is only our second clean sheet of the season.

"The margins remain very small but I am pleased with how the players went about it."

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