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Home is where the Hart is: Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City seek comfort in familiar surroundings

Spurs entertain Everton at White Hart Lane as they look to keep the pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea, while the struggling Foxes welcome Hull City to the King Power Stadium

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 9:55pm

This is one of those periods in the English Premier League season where the usual home-away alternation of matches is not being followed in every case, giving some teams the advantage of playing back-to-back home games while others have two away trips in succession.

Among those with consecutive home matches are Tottenham Hotspur, who follow last week’s 4-0 win over Stoke City at White Hart Lane by hosting Everton, which in theory gives them the chance to keep some pressure on leaders Chelsea.

The percentage chance of a Spurs win, as represented by the betting odds, is much higher than it would be at Goodison Park.

At the bottom of the table, Leicester City play another home match – this time against Hull City – only five days after their much-needed 3-1 win over Liverpool at the King Power Stadium.

In acting when they did to dismiss manager Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester owners may have looked at the fixture list and seen those two home matches as a big opportunity to gain some momentum.

There was an immediate uplift on Monday night as Leicester got themselves out of the relegation zone with an intensity rarely seen from the champions this season.

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This was a performance reminiscent of their blistering title-winning run, but raised plenty of questions about the players’ previous levels of effort for Ranieri.

Jamie Vardy, having denied that there had been no player revolt against the boss who led them to the title, scored twice against Liverpool and said afterwards the criticism levelled at the players had “definitely got us fired up in a good way to put a reaction on the pitch”.

But if there was no problem with the manager, why didn’t the players make that kind of effort when he was there?

To produce that performance only after Ranieri left does not reflect well on the players who owed him so much for guiding them to unimaginable heights last season.

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Unless, that is, he had become the problem: in which case, why is nobody prepared to say so? Probably because that would not reflect well on the players either.

There is a sense, and perhaps the Liverpool result offered more evidence that the Leicester players have saved themselves for the big occasions.

Before Liverpool, they had beaten Manchester City and drawn with Arsenal at home this season, as well as winning four of their seven matches in the Champions League.

In Ranieri’s last match, Leicester had produced a strong second half performance that brought an away goal in the 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the last 16 of the Champions League.

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Sevilla, remember, are pushing Barcelona and Real Madrid hard in the Spanish title race and their manager, Jorge Sampaoli, could be in charge at the Nou Camp next season.

The Liverpool result was not wildly out of line with Leicester’s overall home form this season, as they rank 10th with a record of six wins, three draws and four defeats.

The losses were all against top-eight teams, which makes Leicester’s home record more than respectable and points the finger more at Ranieri’s tactics in away games - or the players’ commitment to hard graft on the road at less glamorous places like Hull, Sunderland, Burnley and Swansea City, where they have not taken a single point this season.

The rot set in early with their 2-1 defeat at Hull on the opening day of the season and the Leicester players have the chance of revenge on Saturday on more solid territory at the King Power Stadium.

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Despite Hull’s improvement under Marco Silva, the hosts look pretty good value at the odds as they have won six out of eight when scoring at home and Hull have kept only two clean sheets on the road, albeit one was recently at Manchester United under Silva.

Leicester rate one of the best home bets in the Premier League, but even better are Stoke at home to Middlesbrough.

Both are low-scoring teams, but Stoke have a good win record against lower-placed opponents and should find a way to win.

Defeat for Middlesbrough could send them into the bottom three and, with only 19 goals scored in 26 games, the outlook is bleak. The Premier League’s lowest-scoring team has been relegated in each of the last four seasons.

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Swansea host Burnley, the Premier League’s worst away side, and they look another good home bet. Paul Clement has won four of his first seven games as Swansea manager, with the only defeats coming against top-four sides.

West Bromwich Albion have been a home team to follow all season and rate well again for the visit of Crystal Palace.

Shortlist

Cardiff, Newcastle, Hoffenheim, Bilbao

Best Bets

Stoke home win

Visitors Middlesbrough will offer stout defence, but not much else

West Brom home win

Eight straight wins at home to teams below them

Leicester home win

Good chance to land back-to-back wins

Swansea home win

Much improved under Paul Clement

Brighton away win

Banker bet at struggling Forest

Big Number

11

Months since Leicester last won successive league games