Leicester City – Sheffield United and Everton – Aston Villa are both massive games but for very different reasons on Thursday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
If Leicester City is to hang onto its top four spot, it will have earned it in a three-match crucible beginning with a visit from Sheffield United on Thursday. While at Goodison, Aston Villa badly need a win to boost their survival hopes as they head to Everton.
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King Power Stadium is the scene for the big tilt, with both Foxes and Blades aiming for places in Europe in the fall. Injury-hit Leicester was given a slight reprieve after its embarrassing loss to Bournemouth when Southampton drew Manchester United, while Blades helped, too, by clobbering Chelsea.
Fourth-place Leicester’s a point back of Chelsea on 59 points, ahead of Manchester United on goal differential. Only the top four will make the 2020-21 Champions League unless Man City wins the 2019-20 edition in August. Sheffield United has an outside shot to catch the Foxes. The Blades have 54 points and will know Leicester still has to face Manchester United.
LEICESTER CITY – SHEFFIELD UNITED STREAM
EVERTON – ASTON VILLA STREAM
As for Everton – Aston Villa, the Toffees are playing for pride after some shocking recent displays and Carlo Ancelotti at least wants a top 10 finish to show for as their Europa League hopes are all but over.
For Aston Villa, this is a massive game in their battle against relegation. Dean Smith’s side beat Crystal Palace last time out know they must win at Everton to try and drag West Ham and Watford further back into the relegation battle. Villa play at West Ham on the final day of the season and if they can get to that game knowing a win in a what would essentially be a relegation playoff would keep them up, they would take that.
Caglar Soyuncu is suspended and Ricardo Pereira is out injured, while three other key players are questionable in Ben Chilwell, James Maddison, and Marc Albrighton all miss out with youngster Luke Thomas coming in for the start.
John Fleck is back on the bench as Sheffield United are unchanged from their win against Chelsea.
Aston Villa have no new injury concerns as Matt Targett comes back into the starting lineup, while Everton make five changes from the team embarrassed at Wolves last time out.
What they’re saying
Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers on holding off Chelsea and Manchester United: “If you look at the clubs below us and around us. We’re ambitious but we understand that there are super clubs around us. Are we as big as them? No. We want to be up there challenging irrespective of size of club. It doesn’t change the way I approach it. We were 12th when I came in, and to be fighting for a Champions League place. That’s amazing.”
Blades boss Wilder on Sheffield Wednesday fan Jamie Vardy: “To be released by the team you love is a hammer blow but he got up off the canvas and proved people wrong by getting his hands dirty at Stocksbridge and Halifax and Fleetwood. Then for Nigel (Pearson) to take a punt for a million quid was a huge statement, and one that’s been justified. … I go to the pub after a win and people say: ‘I could have made it but had an injury.’ Well it wasn’t you because you didn’t do it. You didn’t prove it like Vardy did, so you deserve to be in the pub and have the career you had, not the one Vardy had. So shut up. And I’ve got a few pals like that who I have to put in their basket sometimes. He keeps going so he deserves everything that comes his way, even though it’s from a Blade to an Owl.”
DraftKings has any result within reasonable reach, with host Leicester at +100 and Sheffield United at +310 with a tie near the middle at +225. Jamie Vardy and Oliver McBurnie traded goals early when these two met at Bramall Lane in August before Harvey Barnes found the decisive goal in a 2-1 Leicester City win.
The hosts Everton are favored (+110) but don’t rule out Aston Villa (+250) who have improved defensively and have the likes of Trezeguet, Grealish and McGinn looking dangerous. The tie is +250 but Villa have to go all-out for the win.
It’s tempting to pick against Leicester City due to their injuries and form but the Foxes are a proud, experienced bunch and a good match for the Blades. Call it points split in score draw.
Aston Villa have to go for the win and they will just get it at a sloppy Everton side.
Premier League: How to watch, stream, Leicester City – Sheffield United
Kickoff: 1 pm ET Thursday
TV Channel: NBCSN + Gold/Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com