Leicester vs West Ham: Payet and Carroll key to Foxes clash

Can Wes Morgan and Robert Huth see off the Hammers' battering ram, as midfield marvels Payet and Mahrez go into battle?

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Andy Carroll of West Ham celebrates scoring his team's second goal against Arsenal
(Image credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

At the start of the season, few people would have expected this weekend's meeting between West Ham and Leicester to have much significance at the top of the table.

Indeed, the aim for both clubs in August appeared to be maintaining their Premier League status.

However, Leicester could take another huge step towards a miraculous league title and even secure a top two finish with victory this weekend. But first, they must overcome a West Ham side with genuine Champions League aspirations.

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The match also pits two of the Premier League's best players this season against each other, with Riyad Mahrez opposite Dimitri Payet in midfield.

The teams

Leicester's incredible run of luck with injuries looks set to continue and manager Claudio Ranieri could name the same team for the 11th game out of 13, with Leonardo Ulloa no doubt replacing Shinji Okazaki midway through the second half.

West Ham are still without striker Diafra Sakho, although the presence of Andy Carroll (pictured above) makes up for his absence. Defender Winston Reid, who missed the FA Cup tie with Manchester United on Wednesday, could be fit to return.

How will the Hammers play?

Everyone knows what to expect from Leicester and few expect them to approach this game any differently. However, West Ham boss Slaven Bilic, who admits the League leaders have put his team in the shade this season, is hoping the Foxes will let down their guard.

"They can afford to drop a few points and, on Sunday, they will know it will not be a disaster if they don't win," writes Bilic in the Evening Standard.

Now the Hammers are out of the cup, they must concentrate on the league: "We have to come together, raise our level, stop conceding and try to win these six games," he says.

Leicester will be thinking the same, says BBC Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson. "West Ham will be smarting from their FA Cup exit. Leicester would be right to be wary of Slaven Bilic's excellent side - but just three more wins seal the title."

West Ham battering ram Carroll could be key, says The Guardian. "Slaven Bilic's side... are always dangerous going forward. Yet Leicester will be confident about handling Andy Carroll, with Wes Morgan and Robert Huth in imperious form, and they have won their past three matches against West Ham."

Predictions

Not everyone is impressed by West Ham. Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson claims he was surprised how bad they were on Wednesday. "I had only really seen highlights of Slaven Bilic's side this season and thought they looked excellent, but having watched the whole game against Man United, they were really poor," he says. "If you'd have asked me for a prediction on Monday, I'd have said I'm not sure. But now I can't see anything but a Leicester win."

The Daily Telegraph concurs. It focuses on the contribution of Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel this season and predicts another clean sheet for the Foxes.

Mark Lawrenson of the BBC also sees a win for the home side. "Again, Leicester play before [title rivals] Tottenham, so can open up a ten-point lead again if they win, which is what I think will happen."

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