A score line of 4-3 generally has some of the longest odds in football world. Yet, during the last game week, two matches ended 4-3. Liverpool won with that score against Crystal Palace at Anfield, while Leicester lost at Molineux against Wolves. Both the sides had a longish break due to the FA Cup fixtures on the weekend. But, on Wednesday night these two sides go toe-to-toe at Anfield – Leicester in an attempt to arrest their fall into the bottom half of the table and Liverpool in an attempt to stay four points (at least) clear of Manchester City at the top of the table.
When Liverpool dropped out of FA Cup earlier in January, most fans were not too bothered. That is because, they knew that absence of FA Cup fixtures meant some well-deserved rest for the Reds. Indeed, that is what Jurgen Klopp seemed to have in mind as he took his team for a short warm-weather training trip to Dubai. Whether that trip helped the team physically or not, it must have helped them keep their minds off that nerve wrecking game at Anfield that they were a part of just 10 days ago. Crystal Palace almost scared Liverpool into dropping a few precious points. But through luck and tenacity, the Reds held on. Klopp will be hoping that these ten days in between and the trip to middle-east has calmed the frayed nerves a bit, as the Reds will need all their wits about them if they are to beat Leicester City.
Leicester City have had a dip in form themselves. Since beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before Christmas and Manchester City at home on Boxing Day, the Foxes have lost four out of their last five games. This includes a disappointing loss to Newport in FA Cup, as well as losses to Cardiff, Southampton and Wolves in the aforementioned fixture. More importantly, Wednesday’s game represents the first of three consecutive tough fixtures coming Leicester’s way as Manchester United visit King Power Stadium on Sunday and then Leicester have to travel to Wembley to play Spurs a week later. If Claude Puel wishes to arrest his side’s slide into the bottom half of the league table, he will have to inspire his side extremely well against Liverpool on Wednesday.
- This will be Liverpool’s 10th Premier League game as the side starting top this season, more than they have played in any other season in the history of the competition, surpassing 9 in 1996-97.
- Their opponents do not fare well against such opponents. Leicester City have lost each of their last 11 Premier League games against sides starting the day at the top of the table, conceding at least twice every time and netting just 5 in return. They have not won such a fixture since January 31, 1998 (21 years ago almost to the date they beat Manchester United).
- There are other streaks in Liverpool’s favor. The Reds have won their last three league games against Leicester. They last won four in a row against the Foxes between February 1987 and September 1996. Leicester too have been poor visitors at Anfield, losing six of their last seven Premier League games at Liverpool’s home (D1).
- Leicester have lost their last two Premier League games, the eighth time it has happened under Claude Puel. However, they have not lost three in a row in the competition since February 2017.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 32 home Premier League games (W23 D9), the longest such run in the division since Manchester City went 37 without defeat at the Etihaad between December 2010 and December 2012.
Although not as prolific in scoring this season as his fellow forward Salah, Roberto Firmino brings a completely different dimension to Liverpool’s attack. His pressing is quite useful in harassing the opponents immediately after Liverpool have lost the ball in attack. Firmino has committed 30 fouls without receiving a single yellow or red card, which is more than any other Premier League player this season. But it is not as if he has lost his scoring touch completely. The Brazilian has scored 9 Premier League goals and provided three assists in the league. His xG90+xA90 is 0.66, which is second only to Mohamed Salah. He has scored 5 goals in his last 4 league appearances, and will be keen to add one or two more on Wednesday.
It is no secret that Jamie Vardy loves to play against Liverpool. Only Andrew Cole (11) and Thierry Henry (8) have scored more Premier League goals against Liverpool than Jamie Vardy (7). He has also scored 7 goals so far this season, and assisted three. His xG90+xA90 of 0.73 is the highest in Claude Puel’s team. As Crystal Palace showed in the last game week, the only way to try and win against Liverpool is to score quickly. That is exactly what Jamie Vardy will want on Wednesday night.
For Liverpool, this ten-day rest period has brought mixed results. Joe Gomez has suffered a setback in his recovery, meaning he will continue to remain unavailable. But, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum are close to returning from knee injuries and could both make Liverpool’s squad in midweek. Dejan Lovren has returned to full training and should be available. Although Fabinho and Virgil van Djik both missed a training session due to illness, both should be able to start on Wednesday. In the absence of James Milner, who received a second yellow in the last game, Fabinho will have to play right-back if Trent remains unavailable.
For Leicester, Harry Maguire is a doubt, but Daniel Amartey is ruled out. Harvey Barnes and Demarai Gray will be hoping to start but might have to contend with a spot on the bench.
This Liverpool side is unlikely to repeat its mistakes from ten days ago, so Leicester will find it extremely hard to breach the Reds’ defense. On the other hand, in the last game, Liverpool’s forwards were closer in form to their form last season, and not earlier this season, meaning Leicester’s defence will also have their hands full. The combination of these two factors should lead to a victory for Liverpool.
Liverpool 3 – 1 Leicester City