Both teams, that have endured struggles this season, meet on New Year’s Day off the back of victories as Liverpool host Leicester City.
Liverpool ended 2014 in happier spirits after an extremely disappointing second half of the year with a 4-1 victory over Rodgers’ old team Swansea. Starting a small run of form – 3 wins and a draw in all competitions – Liverpool have now moved to within 5 points of the top 4 and things have started to look slightly more optimistic at Anfield. Whether Rodgers will continue without Gerrard in the starting XI after it worked so well on Monday will be interesting and show a sign of Liverpool’s season.
There was a sense of relief after Sunday’s win over Hull for Nigel Pearson and Leicester, as they managed to record their first win for 14 matches. The size of the task is still apparent to everyone with Leicester sitting at the bottom of the league on 13 points. Also maybe some new signings are needed to help cut out the mistakes that have plagued their season and resulted in a number of goals for the opposition. Goal scoring has also been an issue, going through a run of 5 matches without a goal while failing to score in 9 of their 19 league matches.
In the system that has been played by Rodgers in recent weeks, Sterling has been at the point of a striker-less formation. This has been done to exploit his pace against the opposition defence on the counter with testing balls from Coutinho and Lallana.
With 4 goals and 4 assists to his name, the young player will want to improve that in the second half of the season, but the impact he has on the rest of his side – dragging defenders out of position and creating pace for others – is undeniably important for Liverpool. Making on average 2.4 chances and 3.2 successful dribbles per match, Sterling will be pivotal to Liverpool’s attack.
During the difficult spell, one of the only bright sparks for Leicester was Mahrez. The tricky winger has created the most chances for Leicester with 21 and assisted 2 goals, while he has made 2.3 successful dribbles per match this season.
His goal against Hull helped Leicester to their first victory since September and was his second of the season. Having an average of 2.2 shots per match shows that he is a threat, if he could finish these chances more often then his place in the team will guaranteed until the end of the season and be key to their chances of staying up.
- Liverpool have lost just once in the last 6 matches, but only 2 of those have been victories.
- This will be the first meeting between the pair at Anfield since 2003.
- In their last 20 away matches against teams positioned in the top half of the table, Leicester have scored 1.2 goals per game and conceded 1.4 goals per game on average.
Liverpool are likely to be without Brad Jones and Lovren, who are both very doubtful, whilst Johnson and Sturridge are out until mid-January.
Ulloa and King both have knocks and are doubtful if they will manage to make the squad for New Year’s Day. Matt Upson could make an appearance on the bench, but overcoming a long term injury make that unlikely. Kasper Schmeichel is ruled out until mid-January.
The confidence will have returned to both teams, but with home advantage on their side Liverpool will come out on top – although not with as much ease as Monday night.