Match Preview: Leicester City vs Middlesbrough

“I know exactly what the problems are at this football club and I will be addressing them.

“I have a job to do and I am very happy to have the job. I am not happy with the result or the performance, but I recognise where we are, we have to put it right and I will put it right.” – Nigel Pearson, 14th January 2012

Perhaps in years to come (if indeed, this is the season where Leicester finally realise their potential) that interview with Nigel Pearson will be seen as a turning point.

Of the 16 players in the squad that lost 2-1 at home to Barnsley just over a year ago, only five (Schmeichel, Koncheskey, King, Dyer & Nugent) can now claim to be first team regulars.

Four wins in a row have given Leicester the perfect start to the new year and tonight they could find themselves back in the top two for the first time since October.

A combination of attacking flair and defensive solidity have wiped away the memories of limp performances that so typified last season. Instead, Leicester have conceded the fewest goals in the Championship (23), kept the most clean sheets (11) and are only four goals away from scoring as many at home this season as they did in the whole of 2011/12.

Confidence is high, and understandably so – but there should be no underestimation of Middlesbrough.

True, Tony Mowbray’s men have lost their last two league outings, but they haven’t lost three in a row in a year. That’s partly due to an attack that has only failed to register in three matches this season, a record bettered only by Cardiff City and Crystal Palace.

There could be some nervousness amongst the away fans (if many of them make it through the snow, of course). This time last year ‘Boro were fourth, but slipped out of playoff contention and were five points adrift of sixth by the end of the season. The side will be just as keen for a first win at the King Power Stadium to kick start their campaign.

But if Leicester can get three points here just optimism that has built thanks to strong but expected wins will start to look justified.

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