A few game weeks back, it seemed that this season’s title race was going to be one of the closest title races in recent Premier League history. Now with Manchester City opening up a 5-point wide gap between them and United and a 10-point gap to the current champions Liverpool, it does seem that the title race is over. But the race to occupy slots 2, 3 and 4 has heated up even more. Two sides, who are right in the middle of this race, face each other on Saturday. The beleaguered and battered champions Liverpool travel to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City.
The Foxes under Brendan Rodgers are flying high but have had some recent troubles. They sit 3rd in the table with 43 points, three more than the visitors. They have lost one (1-3 at home to Leeds) and drawn two (Wolves and Everton, both away) in their last five games. They have beaten Chelsea (2-0 at home) and Fulham (0-2 away) in the other two games. But they needed literally a last-minute goal on Wednesday to overcome Brighton and reach the next round of the FA Cup. That FA Cup game also added to Rodgers’ injury concerns as James Justin had to be stretchered off with a knee injury and Ayoze Perez picked up a shin injury as well. Leicester’s home record is considerably worse than their away record this season. They have picked up only 16 points at home (out of 33), winning five and drawing one of their 11 games at King Power Stadium. In comparison, away from home they have lost only one game and have picked up 27 points out 36 available. That one away loss however, was to Liverpool at Anfield in November.
Liverpool in November were truly flying high and seemed on their way to defending their title. In comparison, the side that will visit Leicester on Saturday has seen their form and fortunes drop terribly. The Reds have picked up only 7 points in the last five Premier League games. They have been ousted from the FA Cup by their fierce rivals Manchester United. They have also seen some record-breaking lows – Reds’ 68-game unbeaten run at home was brought to an end by Burnley; Manchester City won at Anfield for the first time after 18 years; Alisson committed two errors, which allowed City to win comfortably. These were all highly unlikely events, but they have all occurred in quick succession over the last few weeks. Liverpool’s confidence must be very low right now. With the news of Jurgen Klopp’s mother’s death in January being announced this week, there will be a sense of a personal loss as well in the Liverpool dressing room. But if any team has shown that they can fight back from such lows, it has been Klopp’s Liverpool. Both their last wins in the league have come away from home and they can leapfrog the Foxes into the third place by winning on Saturday. The question is will Klopp’s “Mentality Monsters” bounce back?
- No matter how we look at it, Leicester’s head-to-head record against Liverpool is pretty poor. They have lost their last three home league games against Liverpool, their worst every losing run against the Reds. Liverpool have won 12 of their last 17 Premier League matches against the Foxes (D3 L2), winning six of the last seven.
- Leicester have not lost four consecutive home top-flight matches against an opponent since a run of five defeats against Manchester United between 1999 and 2003. Liverpool, on the other hand, are looking to win three consecutive away games for the first time since winning eight in a row between November 2019 and February 2020.
- But Foxes also have a few positives to look forward to. While they have lost 16 of their last 20 Premier League games against the reigning champions (W2 D2), they have won twice in the last four such occasions – beating Chelsea in 2015-16 and Man City in 2018-19.
- Liverpool have lost consecutive league games for the first time under Jurgen Klopp – they have not lost three in a row in the league since November 2014 when Brendan Rodgers was their manager. Rodgers has never lost six home league matches in a single season. Leicester have already lost five this season.
With 5 assists and 4 goals in his last 10 games in all competitions, James Maddison is the in-form player for Leicester. He has contributed six goals in his last six Premier League home games (4 goals 2 assists), as many as in his previous 31 at the King Power Stadium. Against Liverpool, he has scored one and assisted one goal but is yet to win in five games (D1 L4). His xG90 of 0.16 and xA90 of 0.22 do not seem very high but he is the most prolific shooter – 2.84 shots per 90 minutes and most prolific creator – 2.36 key passes per 90 minutes for Leicester. For Leicester to win on Saturday, Maddison will need to be in his element.
Sadio Mane has played 12 games against Leicester, eight as a Liverpool player. He has scored 4 goals and created 4 – all while playing for Liverpool. He contributed at least one goal in each league game against the Foxes in the last two seasons. He did not get a goal or assist in the 3-0 home win earlier this season. He has scored seven goals and assisted three in the league this season. His xG90 of 0.46 and xA90 of 0.21 indicate a 67% probability of him contributing a goal if he plays all 90 minutes. For Jurgen Klopp’s side to bounce back from the woeful form on Saturday, his Senegalese talisman has to bounce back into goal contribution form.
James Justin and Ayoze Perez picked up injuries in the FA Cup game against Brighton. With Timothy Castagne already sidelined, Leicester are thin at left-back. Brendan Rodgers may use Christian Fuchs in a back-three and deploy Marc Albrighton as a right wingback with Ricardo Pereira playing the left wingback. The likely lineup for Spurs is likely to be Schmeichel; Evans, Soyuncu, Fuchs; Albrighton, Tielemans, Ndidi, Pereira; Maddison, Barnes; Vardy.
For Liverpool, one of the new signings Ben Davies or Ozan Kabak will hope to feature on Saturday. This would allow captain Henderson to return to midfield duties. Diogo Jota is nearing a first-team return but Saturday’s game may be too close for him. The likely lineup for Liverpool is – Alisson; Trent, Kabak, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Mane, Salah, Firmino.
This is a game that can have a significant impact on the top-four race. However, both Liverpool and Leicester are far from their best form. Both have injury problems in their defence. As a result, one can expect all three results on Saturday. However, given Liverpool’s away form and Leicester’s recent fortunes at home, the Reds might just prevail over their hosts.
Leicester 1 – 2 Liverpool