SOURCE: Photo, Дмитрий Пукалик, CC BY-SA 3.0
Leicester City maintained their place in the top four of the English Premier League (EPL) with a confident 2-0 victory over Sheffield United. Defeat for the Foxes against United would have opened the door for the newly-promoted Blades to try and challenge for a Champions League place. However, Brendan Rodgers’ men stuck to their task and closed out a comfortable win in the end, thanks largely to a dominant midfield display from Nigerian sensation Wilfred Ndidi.
In Ndidi’s 30th EPL game of the campaign, he demonstrated that he remains the key anchor at the base of Leicester’s midfield. The full-time statistics suggest that Ndidi is well and truly over his injury and fitness issues. An 89% passing accuracy, five key interceptions and ten tackles helped to smother United’s five-man midfield and leave Oli McBurnie and David McGoldrick starved for service.
Wilfred Ndidi: Leading the way for tackles in 2019/20
In fact, Ndidi is now the EPL’s number-two ranked tackler, racking up a hugely impressive 121 tackles so far this term. That figure inches the Nigerian just one behind Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka and two ahead of fellow Red Devil Ricardo Pereira. It’s yet another sign that Leicester have well and truly found their replacement for N’Golo Kante, who left the King Power Stadium for Chelsea after winning the title with the Foxes. Kante was the backbone of the team that allowed Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to do their damage and Ndidi is playing a similarly effective role in Rodgers’ top four-chasing side in 2019/20.
The Foxes are still very much in the hunt for a top four finish in the EPL this season. FOX Bet, which is one of the latest US sportsbooks to offer EPL betting markets, rates Leicester as a -650 favorite to overcome Chelsea and Manchester United and claim a Champions League spot. However, their two remaining EPL fixtures are against Tottenham and Manchester United – two of the harder games Rodgers would have liked his team to have at this stage of the campaign.
It’s quite possible that City’s home game with Manchester United on the final day of the season could be a shoot-out for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Rodgers will be delighted to have Ndidi back to full match sharpness to face an in-form Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.
Leicester fans should savour Ndidi while they can
There has been considerable speculation surrounding the future of Ndidi in the last six months after such rapid development since joining Leicester from Belgian side Genk in 2017. Although Leicester are pushing United and Chelsea for a Champions League place, there is no doubt that the lure of playing week in, week out at Old Trafford is still a tremendous pull for any ambitious footballer. Nevertheless, Ndidi is contracted to Leicester until the summer of 2024, which means that United or any other interested party is going to have to pay top dollar to prise him from the Foxes.
The fact that Ndidi could depart this summer adds weight to recent reports that Leicester are one of several EPL clubs taking a closer look at Roma’s midfield powerhouse Amadou Diawara. The Guinean has only been with Roma this season, but the 22-year-old has demonstrated that he has the presence and the technicality to shine in the EPL, averaging 88.4% for pass completion, which is on a similar level to Ndidi against Sheffield United.
Ndidi and Manchester United could be a tremendous fit on a tactical level. With boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer employing three forward-thinking players in the shape of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, Ndidi could slot in alongside midfielders Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes with ease. Ndidi’s defensive capabilities could provide the perfect foil, allowing Pogba and Fernandes to do their damage in the final third, in the same way that N’Golo Kante freed up Riyad Mahrez in Leicester’s title-winning campaign.
Nevertheless, Ndidi certainly has time on his side, with the Lagos-born ace still a relative youngster aged 23 years old. Although he insists publicly that he’s not thinking of leaving Leicester anytime soon, the big clubs will be ready and waiting whenever Ndidi and Leicester are happy to do business.