Leicester City gifted undeserved promotion opportunity but Enzo Maresca faces pressure

Leicester City players
Leicester City are somehow in a good position ahead of the Championship title run-in -Credit:Harry Trump

Leicester City, somehow, remain well in the fight to win promotion from the Championship and earn an instant return to the Premier League this season. Despite losing back-to-back games to Millwall and Plymouth Argyle in the last week, the Foxes unbelievably find themselves in the top two places.

Friday night's woeful display at Plymouth ended with Enzo Maresca and his players being booed by the majority of the 1,600 supporters who made the near 500-mile trip. To outsiders, the fact that a team with 88 points and 28 wins from 42 is receiving so much criticism is beyond them. For supporters of Leicester, the downfall has been abysmal.

The writing has been on the wall for all to see. After thrashing Stoke City 5-0 at the start of February, Maresca's men have won just five of their last 12 league games, managed just one clean sheet in their last 10 Championship games and have missed an incredible 72 big chances this season.

READ MORE: Enzo Maresca must change selection stance as he rejects gamble on major Leicester City issue

READ MORE: Leicester City savaged for 'casual arrogance' as Leeds United handed boost

The two carbon copy defeats to Millwall and Plymouth - deep blocks with the clear game plan of catching City on the counter - had resulted in many (including myself) conceding automatic promotion was no longer possible. However, Saturday's results have handed Leicester an undeserved opportunity to take control of the promotion race.

Leeds United, who themselves are enduring horrific form when the pressure is applied, fell to a 1-0 home defeat to a Blackburn Rovers side who were thumped 5-0 at Bristol City three days earlier. Ipswich also failed to capitalise with their winless week continuing as they failed to defeat Middlesbrough at Portman Road

Somehow Leicester remain in the top two, one point above Leeds and one behind Ipswich. With a game in hand and three home games on the horizon, their fate remains in their hands.

For hundreds of supporters, the performance and result at Home Park has left many doubting this Leicester side. For others, Maresca has lost their faith after yet another example of his complete inability to change games when all is going wrong. No plan B when the going gets tough.

However, this current situation isn't just on the head coach. Eight of the starting 11 at Plymouth have played Premier League football but have constantly proved their inability to perform when they are needed the most.

Leicester City players are left dejected after Mustapha Bundu opens the scoring for Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.
Leicester City players are left dejected after Mustapha Bundu opens the scoring for Plymouth Argyle at Home Park. -Credit:Kieran McManus

Speaking on The Big Strong Leicester Boys Podcast, I attempted to explain one of the biggest factors to mentality issues at the club. "There is a feeling of arrogance with certain players where it almost felt as though they thought they could just turn up and turn Plymouth over.

"After failing to beat Millwall, you just knew Plymouth would turn up and give a fight with them in a relegation scrap. It's clear now that every team knows how to play against Leicester.

“I did say that the run-in for Leicester was a good one because they had beaten all of the remaining seven sides but it seems they've all worked out how to counter the quality in the attack.”

For someone who doesn't like to get on the manager's back that often, doubts over Maresca have entered my head, for the first time, after the last two performances. The Italian is under pressure and he has questions to answer to relieve the pressure on his job.

"I'm not Enzo out and I won't be for the rest of the season,” I explained on the podcast. “If Leicester don't go up automatically and play-offs follow, I'll still back the manager.

“If that does happen and the first leg ends in defeat and the players don't turn up, that's on the players not turning up to another big game.

"My biggest concern is the Premier League. When teams like Crystal Palace come to the King Power Stadium and go ahead, is he going to stick with his slow-tempo approach and no plan B? Leicester won't be able to afford to lose them games next season."

Predicted line-ups for next Saturday's game with West Brom have already started to emerge. Two changes need to happen with Conor Coady coming in and Patson Daka being replaced at centre-forward.

The striker has been made the scapegoat in recent weeks and unfortunately just needs a break from the limelight after missing two big chances at Plymouth. Coady possesses enough qualities to be rewarded a place in the starting XI. It’s no coincidence that his last two starts against Sunderland and Bournemouth have earned clean sheets.

After a rather busy end of March and start of April, Leicester now have a week of rest, recovery and preparation for next week. The players have a chance to show their mentality and Maresca will have eyes on him after the last two games.

Saturday had a better feeling about it, certainly after the distasteful feeling on Friday night. As the headline of this story says, Leicester have a golden opportunity to turn their promotion chances around and return to the Premier League.

Do you think Leicester City will earn promotion to the Premier League this season? Tell us in the comments below...