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Martial and Rashford v Huth and Morgan: The Key Battle in Manchester United v Leicester

Leicester faces Manchester United on Super Sunday needing just three points to secure a remarkable Premier League title at Old Trafford.

Wes Morgan and Robert Huth will anchor the Foxes’ defence, as they have for the vast majority of the season, and will encounter the youthful forward threat of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.

This clash pits speed and attacking flair against defensive nous, strength and experience. Rashford and Martial will be the fastest attacking combination the Leicester defenders have faced this season and both players will look to their pace to gain an advantage on Sunday.

The running stats.

PL 2015/16 Martial Rashford Morgan Huth
Top speed 35.4km/h 34.59km/h 34.76km/h 33.75km/h
Sprints/90 mins 47.7 50.9 31.1 27.6
Distance run/90 mins 9.26km 10.16km 8.78km 9.06km

Martial’s top sprint speed of 35.4km/h is the second-fastest recorded in the Premier League this season behind Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, while Rashford isn’t too far behind. And with Morgan clocking in as one of the Premier League’s fastest defenders, Huth may well find himself targeted by United’s forwards.

Huth and Morgan are not required to sprint or cover as much ground as most players due to Leicester’s deep defensive line.

Of the 486 outfield players to play in the Premier League this season, only two average less distance run per 90 minutes than Morgan and nine than Huth, while both players also rank in the bottom 25 for sprints.

If United can their lure them up the pitch a little more often, they can create extra holes for their speedy attackers to exploit.

Anthony Martial has impressed for Manchester United in recent weeks.

Of course, Martial and Rashford bring far more than sheer pace. Generally cutting in from the left, Martial has quickly forged a reputation as one of the Premier League’s keenest dribblers, eager to take on an opponent at every turn. Only two players average more dribbles per 90 minutes and, as he develops, his success rate will continue to rise.

Most dribbles.

PL 2015/16 Dribbles attempted per 90 mins Dribbles attempted Successful dribbles per 90 mins.
Wilfried Zaha 9.9 274 4.6
Jefferson Montero 7.3 97 3.0
Anthony Martial 7.3 191 2.9
Riyad Mahrez 7.1 221 3.6

Ahead of him, Rashford has already shown a ruthless streak in front of goal, scoring seven times in 14 appearances. Impressively, only one player with seven or more goals (Man City’s Kelechi Iheanacho) boasts a better conversion rate than the 18-year-old’s 35 per cent this season.

Rashford’s senior career.

All comps 2015/16 Mins played Shots on target Goals
Rashford 1,090 13 7

Such clinical finishing, aggressive dribbling and speed is a combination to worry any defence, though Huth and Morgan have been imperious for Leicester, frustrating all varieties of attacks this season.

While Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante regularly grab the headlines, much of Leicester’s success has been due to the defensive foundation laid by their centre-backs.

Of the 532 players to play in the Premier League season, Huth and Morgan have been two of the busiest defenders, ranking among the top 10 in most defensive categories.

Leicester often deliberately draw opponents onto them before springing counter-attacks, placing paramount importance on their defenders’ resilience, and both centre-backs have led the way all season.

Wes Morgan will be aiming to clinch the Premier League title at Old Trafford.

Huth and Morgan have also needed to hold their nerve far more than their rivals this season. In total, 14 of Leicester’s 22 wins (64 per cent) have been by one-goal margins, putting sustained pressure on their defenders to help secure the win.

No title rival comes close in this department, with Tottenham and Man City winning six of 19 (32 per cent) games by a one-goal margin, and Arsenal six of 18 (33 per cent).

High defensive stats can often just showcase a busy defence as opposed to exemplary defenders, but when the numbers are tied in with such regular clean sheets, as they are with Leicester, it’s a clearer indication of effective play.

Most clean sheets by centre-back partnerships.

PL 2015/16 Team Full games at CB together Clean sheets
Huth and Morgan Leicester 34 15
Smalling and Blind Man Utd 22 11
Fonte and Van Dijk S’mpton 26 9
Alderweireld and Vertonghen, Spurs 25 9

No centre-back combination has recorded more clean sheets than the Leicester pair this season and Manchester United’s Chris Smalling (16), is the only defender to tally more individually.

Huth and Morgan will look to nullify their opponent’s speed and may well hold an even deeper line than usual, forcing United to challenge their strengths.

By making their opponents compete in the air or in a condensed final third, Leicester can slow United’s attack and potentially grab a title-winning goal on the break.

Watch Manchester United v Leicester live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 1pm on Sunday

By Robert Muriisa, Skysports.

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