Leicester host Liverpool on Monday night and there will be a weird atmosphere around the KP Stadium as it will be the first match since the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. It was done with the club’s best interests at heart, as the board felt that the Italian was going to relegate them. However, it hasn’t been well received by several notable pundits and it will be interesting to see how the Leicester supporters react as they had a great relationship with Ranieri. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that his players aren’t distracted from their task as it is imperative that they take three points. The top six is getting tight and they can’t afford to drop points against a side battling at the bottom of the league.
The Foxes are currently above the relegation zone by only one point. It would be remarkable for them to go from winning to the Premier League to being relegated in just one year. Although supporters will have been expecting a drop off, they would have expected a mid-table finish at minimum. Ranieri was a great manager for the club, but something had to change and the board couldn’t exactly sack the players. That said, they need to take their share of the blame and now need to step up on the pitch. They need to deliver a good performance on Monday.
It has been a tough start to the calendar year for Liverpool as they have won only two from 11 matches. This isn’t good enough for a side that has Champions League ambitions and it has resulted in them dropping to fifth and out of two cup competitions. Jurgen Klopp asks a lot of his players physically and it clearly had an effect during January, a month in which the Reds played nine matches. They have had over two weeks of rest since their last league match and they will be hoping that they can return to their best on a consistent basis after their impressive performance against Tottenham.
During their earlier meeting this season, Liverpool ran riot and won by a 4-1 scoreline. Roberto Firmino (2), Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana scored the goals for the Reds, while Jamie Vardy netted for the champions. Leicester will have to be much better on Monday night, otherwise a similar scoreline is very possible.
The last team to lose five league games in a row as English top flight champions before Leicester City was Chelsea in 1956.
Adam Lallana has already beaten his best ever creative season in the Premier League with seven assists.
The Leicester City player have failed to live up to the reputations that they build last season and the biggest disappointment has been Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian has been appalling at times and hasn’t shown the flair that we fell in love as Leicester won the league. He has sulked on the pitch at times and looks like he regrets not leaving the Foxes when he had the chance. However, he needs to realise that he isn’t going to earn a move unless he drastically improves his level of performance. His questionable mentality will have done little to help him in his quest to the top of the game and he needs to prove that he is more than a one season wonder. Now that Ranieri has gone, this is the opportunity for him to start afresh and help Leicester climb away from the relegation zone. The Liverpool defence struggles when opposition players run at them and Mahrez needs to exploit that on Monday.
The England international agreed a new deal at the club this week and he will be looking to mark that with a great performance on Monday night. Many thought that he was a failed signing during his first season at the club, but he has been given a new lease of life under Jurgen Klopp and he is one of the mainstays of the starting eleven now. Emre Can is one of the players that is being kept out of the side by Lallana and this underlines how highly he is thought of by the German coach. He has been played in the more attacking central midfield role and he has the freedom to roam in the final third. The former Southampton man is excellent at finding pockets of space and picking defence-splitting through balls. He has also added goals to his game and it will be a welcome boost that he has committed his future to the club.
Islam Slimani and Leonardo Ulloa face late fitness tests as they battle back from a groin strain and a thigh strain respectively. Jamie Vardy is likely to start after his goal during the week, which should concern Liverpool fans as he has a good record against them.
Dejan Lovren, Lucas Leiva, Gini Wijnaldum and Daniel Sturridge are all doubts with various knocks. Danny Ings remains on the long term injury list and won’t feature against Leicester City.
Liverpool are the favourites heading into the match and I expect the Reds to take the three points to make it back-to-back wins in the Premier League. They desperately need to go on another good run of results and a loss to relegation-threatened Leicester City can’t be accepted under any circumstances. The main thing for the Foxes is that they deliver a much better performance to what we have seen from them in recent weeks. Although it wasn’t a popular decision, the sacking of Ranieri was made to have an immediate impact on the pitch and the players now need to step up. They wanted a managerial change and it is now up to them to up their games in order to keep Leicester in the Premier League.