Saturday, 26 December 2015, 15.00 GMT
With other major leagues across Europe going into the winter break before Christmas, the Premier League go into business as usual this weekend. Jurgen Kloppa s little honeymoon period at the helm of Anfield has been hit hard with reality as Liverpool has slumped to a 3-0 loss against Watford last weekend.
On the other hand, their Saturdaya s opponents are the high flying league leaders Leicester City who have taken this season by storm. With contrasting results on back of their clash at Anfield, both teams have some amends to make, as Christmas is the most crucial juncture of the season for fortunes of the clubs.
Claudio Ranieria s men have only Arsenala s company at the top whereas Liverpool have been pushed back to ninth in the table, with the likes of Crystal Palace, Watford and West Ham ahead of them. With this season blown open with unpredictable results becoming a common sight, Saturdaya s clash between these two is hard to predict.
While the big clubs in the premier league tussle and toil to fix their own internal things and as well as deal with the title challenge, Claudio Ranieri and his men sit on the top of the table beating all the big guns at their own game. The Foxes have been the most intelligent among all the chaos slowly cementing their place at the top.
Ruling out Manchester City and Arsenal out of the title race would be foolish but with the current momentum Leicester have, they could be considered as title contenders. Although flying high, the visiting side will be without the services of midfielder Danny Drinkwater who suffered a hamstring injury during the match against Chelsea.
But once again Liverpool have a lot to ponder over the plan to stop seasona s first and second top scorers Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez who have been every opposition defendera s nightmare this season. With Kloppa s counter pressing tactics not fully evolved at Liverpool, Ranieri will likely stick to his guns launching counter attacks at full throttle using the pace upfront.
Liverpoola s defence was outmuscled and outplayed by Watford in the previous game and Leicester will look to take advantage of the same vulnerability of the Reds. Though Ranieria s men look to end this year at the top, a draw or loss at Merseyside could see Arsenal take the top spot with a win against Southampton on Sunday.
Possible Lineups:(4-4-2): Schmeichel; Simpson, Wes Morgan, Huth, Christian Fuchs; Mahrez, Na Golo Kante, Andy King, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy
Jurgen Kloppa s arrival sparked new energy into the squad during the opening few games. But soon enough the good results started to take a dip and in the last few matches, the sidea s performance slightly tilted towards the old ways. Jurgen Kloppa s main concern also would be his sidea s form at home.
Liverpool have gone 8 matches without a victory at Anfield this season across all competitions, out of which they have drawn 3 and lost 1 under the German. Even though the Merseysiders look to have improved in patches, they still have key players injured which hampers their transformation that has been long due.
Martin Skrtel who picked up a hamstring injury in the match against Watford, is still not ready according to Klopp and so is James Milner who is still nursing a knee injury. Striker Daniel Sturridge who has been in and out of the team due to recurring injuries is also sidelined for the clash.
But good news for the Reds is their first choice keeper Simon Mignolet has been declared fit to face the Foxes on Saturday after a horror show from reserve keeper Adam Bogdan last week. Defender Dejan Lovren will also be returning for Liverpool which means he will be the one to partner Mamadou Sakho in the central defence.
Emre Can who is looking comfortable in his preferred central midfield position will have Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva to partner him. Upfront, its still a question about Kloppa s selection of his striker, as either Christian Benteke or Roberto Firmino have to occupy a place on the bench for the other to play as the central striker.
It will be crucial for Jurgen Klopp to keep rotating his squad in order to avoid further injuries during this hectic holiday period as well as improve his home record at Anfield. But their Saturdaya s opponents will prove a difficult hurdle to overcome based on the current form of the squad.
Possible LineUps: (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Sakho, Lovren, Moreno; Lucas, Can, Henderson; Lallana, Benteke, Coutinho
Key Match Facts:
- Leicester are this seasona s most successful travellers so far, collecting 18 points on the road, which includes 5 wins, 3 draws and no losses which is not good news for Liverpool given their current home record at Anfield having earned just 11 points out of a possible 21.
- According to history books Boxing Day has been the most favourable day for the Anfield crowd as Liverpool have never lost a match on Boxing Day at home winning 5 and earning a draw in 3 matches.
Players To Watch Out For:
Coutinho: Although the Brazilian has not been his usual self in recent matches, he can prove to be the difference between his side and the opposition on any given day. But in order to do so, he will need his side to do well which is usually when his performance is also at its best. Saturdaya s match will be crucial for Liverpool as they look to improve their recent slump which saw them go without a win in the last four matches and Klopp will be counting on his little magician to help lift his side.
Mahrez: Vardy will score when he wants, and if he doesn’t there is another thing coming up against you. Riyad Mahrez ! The Algerian already has had a hand in 20 goals this season and has bamboozled every other defender with his mazy dribbles and searing runs. Once again it will be very tough to mark him for Alberto Moreno who will be starting on the left. And Jamie Vardy has won the highest number of penalties since 2014-15 season and one mistake from Liverpool will once again help Mahrez to get on the scoresheet, just like he did against Everton last week.
Leicester City 0 – 0 Liverpool
Although Liverpool are not in their best form and with the Foxes enjoying a great campaign, Saturday’s match looks to be mostly a cagey affair. Also Liverpool’s backline might be playing more cautious rather than pressing higher up pitch in order to avoid Leicester’s counter attacks. Also whenever Leicester score except for struggling bottom half clubs, they also have allowed oppositions to score as well only to outscore them in the process or to settle for a draw. So Saturday’s match also might follow the path like they did against Manchester United where they drew 1-1 despite having greater share of chances at goal.
Blast From The Past:
All the goals from Liverpoola s 3-1 win against Leicester last season.