The Christmas day is an important marker in the Premier League season. Few teams that are leading on Christmas end up losing the title race, although Liverpool have managed this unwanted feat a few times. The Reds are again in the same position as they are leading the table by 10 points and have a game in hand. They are being chased by Leicester City, so it is of extra significance that Liverpool head to the King Power stadium on Boxing Day night to try and extend that lead to 13 points.
If Liverpool were not in such a great form themselves, Leicester would have been the story of the season. The Foxes head into this important game after losing the previous game to Manchester City but they are in supreme home form. Of their 9 home games so far this season, Leicester have won 6 and drawn 2. They have not allowed their opponents to score more than once in any home game this season. This despite having faced teams such as Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves at home. Their loss against Manchester City on Saturday night was just their third loss of the season (P18 W12 D3 L3). Despite this great form, Brendan Rodgers’ men are at risk of being pushed down to third in the table if they drop points on Thursday night, as Manchester City will try to make the most of their slip and leapfrog them when the Citizens travel to Wolves the following night. This will certainly keep the Foxes on their toes.
Liverpool head into this game as World Champions, having just returned from Qatar where they beat Brazil’s Flamengo in the FIFA Club World Cup finals on Saturday night to win their second piece of silverware this season. The Reds have managed to stay unbeaten in the League so far and have dropped just two points so far – against Manchester United in October. A win on Thursday can see Jurgen Klopp’s men achieve a 13 point lead over Leicester (and possibly a 12 point lead over Manchester City), with a game in hand, which they have as their trip to West Ham got postponed due to the Club World Cup final. Jurgen Klopp and his men must be aware that only Newcastle United in 1995-96 blew a bigger lead in the title race than the 10-point lead that they currently hold. But they will be equally aware of the fact that Liverpool have blown Christmas leads many a time in their recent history, the most recent being last year. The Reds will want to make sure that history does not repeat itself this season and a win on Boxing Day will go a long way in ensuring that.
- In 2019, Liverpool are the team to beat. The Reds have won 29 Premier League games in 2019 – only once in their history have the Reds won more top-flight games in a single calendar year (33 in 1982). They also have a good record on Boxing Day. Liverpool have won their last four Boxing Day games in the Premier League by an aggregate score of 11-0. They have never won five such games in their league history.
- Leicester have lost four of their last five Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D1), since winning 3-1 in February 2017. They lost the match when they faced the Reds on Boxing Day in the Foxes’ title winning season of 2015-16.
- Liverpool have won their last two Premier League away games against Leicester – they’ve never won three consecutive away matches against them in top-flight history.
- Leicester lost their last Premier League game conceding as many goals in their 1-3 defeat to Manchester City as they had in their previous eight combined in the league. The Foxes have not lost back-to-back league game since their final three games under Claude Puel.
Vardy loves to score against Liverpool, and he is also back in love with scoring overall. Only Andy Cole (11) and Thierry Henry (8) have scored more Premier League goals against Liverpool than Jamie Vardy (7). No one else comes even close to Vardy in terms of Premier League goals this season as he leads the goalscoring charts by six goals, having scored 17 and assisted 3. An xG per 90 of 0.63 and xA per 90 of 0.13 indicates more than 75% probability of Vardy contributing a goal if he plays 90 minutes. Rodgers will hope that his striker can continue in the vein of form he has shown so far this season.
Mane is not as prolific in scoring Premier League goals this season as Jamie Vardy. He only has 9 league goals to his name so far. However, the Senegal international has been directly involved in 10 goals in his last nine starts in all competitions (4 goals, 6 assists), registering at least one assist in his last four starts. An xG90 of 0.46 and xA90 of 0.28 means that Mane also has a 74% chance of contributing a goal if he plays for 90 minutes. Klopp may not be able to play Mane for the full 90 minutes, given that the forward played for 120 minutes on Saturday night. But he will still hope that Mane can create a goal or two in the time that he is able to play for on Thursday night.
For Leicester, only Harvey Barnes is a slight doubt for Thursday as he picked up a knock against Manchester City on Saturday. Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray can fill in for Barnes however. Matty James is the only long-term absentee. The likely lineup for the Foxes – Schmeichel; Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell; Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison; Perez, Albrighton, Vardy.
For Liverpool, the injury concerns are tougher to deal with. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered an ankle injury that cast “a big shadow” over Liverpool’s CWC title win, as per Klopp. Gini Wijnaldum also remains a doubt after being sidelined in both the games in Qatar. These midfield issues are in addition to the defensive ones. Joël Matip is out with a knee injury while Dejan Lovren is sidelined with a thigh problem leaving Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez as Liverpool‘s only fit central defenders. Fabinho and Nathaniel Clyne continue to be absent due to long-term injuries. The likely lineup for Liverpool could be – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Keïta, Milner; Salah, Mané, Firmino.
The reverse game at Anfield was a closely fought game, with Liverpool narrowly winning it. With the lack of European football and the inherent quality in the squad. Leicester have it in them to trouble any side this season. However, Liverpool have found an answer or two for any questions asked of them this season. It is highly likely that they will find an answer to the Foxes challenge on Thursday as well.
Leicester City 1 – 2 Liverpool