What does Ibrahimovic’s three-game ban mean for Manchester United?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Manchester United have today been handed a potentially major blow to their top four hopes, following the FA’s decision to hand the striker a three-game ban for an elbow on Tyrone Mings during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth.

Ibrahimovic is facing the suspension for an elbow on Mings late in the first half of Saturday’s game. The Bournemouth defender is facing an even lengthier ban for a stamp on the United star a minute earlier, which prompted the aggressive response from Ibrahimovic.

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Both players have until Tuesday evening to respond to the charges, but there is very little chance of that, with both now facing at least three games out for violent conduct.

Ibrahimovic will miss next Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea, followed by Premier League games against Middlesbrough on March 19 and West Brom on April 1. However, the Swedish forward would still be available for Europa League matches in that time. United face Russian side FC Rostov away this Thursday, before the return leg at Old Trafford next week.

No United player has made more appearances this season than the age-defying Ibrahimovic, who has scored 26 goals in his debut season in English football. He has proven his doubters wrong by inspiring Jose Mourinho’s side over the course of the season and his absence could prove to be hugely costly come the end of the season.

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United are still stuck in sixth place in the Premier League, but are just three points off Liverpool in fourth, with a game in hand too. They will expect to take six points from the upcoming league fixtures against Middlesbrough and West Brom, but the loss of Ibrahimovic could throw their chances into doubt.

The frontman has scored or assisted almost half of United’s goals in the top flight this season, which highlights exactly how influential he’s been for the Red Devils.

United are unbeaten in 17 Premier League games and it’s no coincidence that Ibrahimovic has hit form during that time, scoring 11 of his 15 league goals during that stretch.He’s only missed five games in total so far this term, but none of those have been away from home. The only league game he missed saw United draw 1-1 at home to Arsenal.

It’s been over a year since Anthony Martial started a game up front, while Wayne Rooney’s days as an out-and-out striker appear to have ended a long time ago. That means Mourinho will more than likely look to Marcus Rashford in the upcoming games that Ibrahimovic will miss.

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Rashford has only scored three league goals so far this season, although he has only been handed 10 starts, coming off the bench in 11 more and often out on the left-wing.

United have not only lost their best goalscorer in Ibrahimovic, but also the man who links midfield to attack with his world-class hold up play.

As it stands, United are still in three competitions and only three points off the top four. If they are in the same – or an even better position – this time next month, then they’ll have done remarkably well without this year’s talisman.

How do you think Manchester United will cope without Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Does he deserve a three-game ban?

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Leicester City vs Manchester City

Competition: Premier League – Leicester City FC vs. Manchester City

Venue: King Power Stadium – Saturday, December 10 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Leicester 18/5 – Draw 3/1 – Man City 7/10

Match Preview

Leicester welcome Manchester City to the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening in a tie contested by two sides who will feel they’re under performing this season.

The Foxes are struggling to live up to the dizzy heights of last season and if they’re not careful they’ll find themselves in a relegation scrap.

Claudio Ranieri’s side are just two points above the bottom three and are in a dismal run of form. They need to get a string of positive results together and push their way up the Premier League table.

Leicester’s smash and grab style of football that won them the league last season isn’t having the same impact as it did, but a win here would make a huge difference to the mood around the King Power.

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Manchester City have been on track to challenge for the title from the start of the season but they come into this one having lost both the game and their discipline against Chelsea last weekend.

Pep Guardiola is under a little pressure and things are not going his way. City are now sitting fourth, four points off top spot. While this is not the time to panic, the City players are going to need to step up and strike fear back into their opponents.

City’s season is in good shape, they are well in the title race and, like Leicester, have qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

However, a loss here would open the possibility of City dropping out of the top four if other results go against them. In what appears to be the most competitive Premier League season ever, there is no hiding place for below-par performances.

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Team News

Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel remains out. Danny Drinkwater will complete his three-game ban on the sideline for this one, other than those two, Ranieri has a clean bill of health for his side.

Manchester City will be without their goal machine Sergio Aguero and midfielder Fernandinho following their red cards last weekend. Guardiola’s selection issues are from back to front as he will also be without Nicolas Otamendi, who received his 5th yellow of the season last weekend, so now faces a one match suspension. Raheem Sterling’s return can’t come soon enough for City, he is expected to still be sidelined for this tie, while Vincent Kompany is out and Fabian Delph is a doubt.

Key Points

Leicester’s last five: D/L/L/D/L

Manchester City’s last five: W/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: Home comforts – Although Leicester are going through a rough patch, their home form is something they have been able to fall back on. They’re lost just once in their last 22 at the King Power.

Key Player: Kevin De Bruyne – The Belgian midfielder will be forgiven for feeling sorry for himself after he wasted a huge chance to put City out of sight in their loss last weekend. He’s not the sort to be denied and will be looking to make amends this time around. KDB will be sniffing in and around the penalty area for a goal.

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Score Prediction

Leicester City 1-3 Manchester City – Manchester City need a result following their ill-tempered defeat last weekend. Leicester’s struggles will continue here and City are one of the last sides they will want to be facing while they’re going through this difficult run of form.