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As if their historic 2015-16 Premier League title win was not enough, Leicester once again defied the odds to lift the FA Cup in the 2020-21 season, with Youri Tielemans‘s thunderbolt of an effort sinking Chelsea in front of a depleted Wembley crowd.
The images of Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha joining the celebrations on the field warmed the hearts of football fans across the globe in what was a fitting tribute to his late father, but the quest for back-to-back FA Cup titles begins now.
Aiming to follow in the footsteps of Arsenal’s 2014 and 2015 winners, Leicester are well-placed to kick off their FA Cup journey on the right foot, as Brendan Rodgers‘s COVID-hit squad came up trumps against a near full-strength Liverpool in their final game of 2021 thanks to Ademola Lookman‘s strike.
The Foxes were due to open 2022 with a fixture against Norwich City before the game was called off due to the Canaries’ coronavirus cluster, and that encounter would have certainly helped them build on their measly tally of two wins from their last seven in all competitions.
However, Leicester are enjoying a four-game winning run at home across all tournaments – averaging three goals per game in that hot streak – but they will be wary of another early exit following Newport County’s famous third-round win in 2018-19.
Leicester have lost four players to Africa Cup of Nations duty ahead of this game, with Wilfred Ndidi, Nampalys Mendy, Kelechi Iheanacho and Daniel Amartey all competing at the tournament.
Ryan Bertrand, James Justin, Ricardo Pereira, Jamie Vardy, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu will all be out for a little while longer, while Patson Daka is also unlikely to make the cut here, and to add to Rodgers’s woes, Boubakary Soumare and Luke Thomas are both unavailable.
There was optimism over the fitness of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, but both players are set to miss out again, and Rodgers will likely be forced to throw 17-year-old Ben Nelson into the heart of the defence.
Meanwhile, Watford’s ranks have also been depleted by AFCON, with William Troost-Ekong, Adam Masina, Imran Louza and Ismaila Sarr – despite a row between Senegal and the Hornets – representing their various nations.
Star striker Emmanuel Dennis has remained in England after Nigeria accused Watford of “baring their fangs” over his rejected AFCON release, but Peter Etebo, Christian Kabasele, Kwadwo Baah, Nicolas N’Koulou, Danny Rose and Kiko Femenia are all injury concerns, while Dennis has now picked up a knock.
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Ben Foster is thought to have a good chance of recovering from a groin strain in time for this match, but Daniel Bachmann was the star of the show against Tottenham Hotspur and is unlikely to lose his place.
Leicester City possible starting lineup:
Ward; Daley-Campbell, Vestergaard, Nelson, Castagne; Tielemans, Choudhury; Albrighton, Dewsbury-Hall, Lookman; Perez
Watford possible starting lineup:
Bachmann; Ngakia, Sierralta, Cathcart, Morris; Kucka, Sissoko, Cleverley; Hernandez, King, Sema