Match Preview – Hull City

As economic reality bites across the country Leicester City have existed in something of a bubble. The players have been flown to the Far East to play a friendly against the national side of their new Thai owners, their journey to the stadium undertaken through streets closed for the benefit of their convoy. Between presentations of sword fighting and blessing the King of Thailand, the players have themselves been treated like Gods. Now, it seems, they must play like them.

Vichai Raksriaksorn has said he wants promotion this year and is happy to fund it. The only problem is City’s miserable return of eight points from a possible 30 this season. No side in the three points for a win era has reached the top flight on the back of a start like that. Even with Sven-Göran Eriksson at the helm, it looks massively unlikely.

The urgency with which the promotion aim is being pursued is on the one had pleasing. It is difficult to criticise such ambition after all. But City do live in the real world, one in which historically even a playoff place would be a remarkable achievement in the context of their start to the campaign.

A few wins on the board would be a reassuring start and this weekend’s fixture at home to Nigel Pearson’s Hull City looks like an excellent opportunity. The bookies may have the Tigers as 3/1 outsiders to win at the Walkers but to underestimate the challenge would be a mistake.

The fixture list has not been kind to Hull. Of their 10 opponents so far this season, eight of them currently sit in the top half. QPR by contrast have played eight matches against teams currently in the bottom half. Stats like that should tell you the league is still very much in flux.

Nigel Pearson has gone about restoring his side’s defensive integrity as a priority. Hull City conceded 114 goals between 13th December 2008 and the end of the 2009/10 season. Now only QPR (8) have recorded more clean sheets than Pearson’s men (6).

However, ensuring Hull City don’t get beaten has done little for their attack. Only Sheffield United (5) have scored fewer league goals than the Tigers who have managed just seven. Only one player, Robert Koren, has scored more than once. It is also 182 minutes since the Tigers last found the net.

By contrast no set of fans have seen more goals than Leicester supporters this season. Alas, the majority of the 36 strikes have been in City’s net. It is eight matches since the Foxes last kept a clean sheet, the club’s longest run of this kind since a 14 game stretch between November 2005 and January 2006 (a sequence that eventually led to Craig Levein losing his job).

The Walkers Stadium has been a happy hunting ground in recent years for the Tigers, they’ve won each of their last two visits without the Foxes so much as troubling the scoreboard. But if we know one thing about Sven, it’s that he tends to start well. Sven began his reign at Manchester City with three wins and three clean sheets. No matter how those results are achieved, there can’t be a Leicester fan who wouldn’t take that. Maybe then we could start looking towards the playoffs.

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