Leicester City can temporarily open a ten-point gap at the top of the Premier League with victory at Sunderland and, with closest competitors Tottenham Hotspur facing Manchester United, the chances of this deficit remaining intact are good.
A price of 23/20 says the Foxes do the business at The Stadium of Light, where the relegation-battling hosts, who can move to within a point of safety with victory, are available at 13/5 next to a 9/4-rated draw.
Clearly there isn’t much faith placed in Sunderland, but the fact that the team in the box seat to claim the title isn’t odds-on for a trip to one of the division’s worst teams is testament to the fact they’re not unbeatable.
This is a notion that Sunderland will make abundantly clear on Wearside, where Sam Allardyce’s outfit will defy probability and claim three priceless points against the pacesetters.
Here’s why they’ll do it:
The most obvious chinks in Leicester’s armour can be exposed on the road.
Claudio Ranieri’s men have evolved from a gung-ho, free-scoring set up into an unlikely clean-sheet-keeping machine.
This change has come at the expense of their attacking impetus and only once since Boxing Day have they scored multiple goals on the road. It’s a trait that has seen them spill points in three of their last seven road games (one of which was against Aston Villa) and, if Sunderland do score, they can expect at least a point here.
Master pragmatist Sam Allardyce wrote the book on how to upset favourites at home.
Desperately unlucky not to take something from Manchester City’s recent visit, Sunderland snared the spoils when Manchester United were in town and haven’t lost on the homestead since.
The Black Cats are one of two teams to have less possession than Leicester this season, suggesting they’re well-equipped to be without the ball for long periods as they starve the space the visitors require to flex their sizeable counter-attacking muscles.
Sunderland have a good record against this foe.
Their opening-day defeat to Leicester was, amazingly, the Wearsiders’ first when facing this adversary since 2001.