Leicester City head into the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Watford at Vicarage Road tomorrow lunchtime with a slender one-goal advantage after David Nugent’s second-half header earned the Foxes a 1-0 win on Thursday evening.
In what proved to be an open and entertaining encounter at the King Power Stadium, the game looked to be heading for a stalemate until the striker nodded in from an Anthony Knockaert free-kick late on to set up an intriguing return clash.
It was just a fourth win in 19 games in all competitions after a stuttering end to the season for Leicester, who only managed to secure a place in the top six on the final day of the campaign with a dramatic 3-2 success away at Nottingham Forest.
Hornets boss Gianfranco Zola won’t be overly disappointed with the result, despite Matej Vydra fluffing a golden opportunity to put his men one up after the break, and he’ll be boosted by the return of 19-goal striker Troy Deeney from suspension.
The former Walsall forward has played a hugely influential role for the club this season alongside the on-loan Vydra, with the pairing bagging 39 league goals between them, and his hold-up play was sorely missed in the first leg.
Watford have been priced as 5/4 favourites to record their third success over the Foxes this season in normal time having secured a double over Nigel Pearson’s men in the regular season, with the draw at 12/5 and a win on the road for Leicester at 19/10.
The visitors certainly haven’t been pulling up any trees away from home as they have managed just six wins on the road all season and their recent success at the City Ground was their first victory on their travels in ten games – a run that had stretched back to January.
They went down 2-1 in both of the two most recent meetings with Watford, who, despite firing a blank in the first leg, will be confident of getting on the scoresheet given that only Port Vale scored more goals in the whole of the Football League this term.
A similar scoreline this time round looks a very attractive option at 15/2.
Goals have generally been on the agenda when these two have met in recent years, with seven of the last nine encounters involving at three or more goals, five of those seeing at least four, and over 2.5 goals in this fixture looks a decent bet at 83/100.
Zola has had his side playing some devastating counter-attacking football to great effect this season and they won 12 of their 22 matches against sides that finished in the top half this season, five of those wins coming against top-six clubs.
Despite probably deservedly going down to a narrow defeat in the first leg, the return of Deeney will make Watford a completely different proposition for a Leicester side that finished nine points behind the Hornets in the league.
It looks set to be a gripping clash but one in which the home side should have too much in attack for their visitors and at 5/4, a Watford win looks the best bet.