Liverpool will hope to enter the second international break of the season with their perfect Premier League record intact, with Leicester City in their way.
The dreaded international break, the second of the season, is nearly upon us. But, before that, there is a matter of one more matchday across leagues in Europe. The eye-catching fixture in the Premier League this weekend will pit table-toppers Liverpool with third-placed Leicester City.
Liverpool have been on a roll in the early stages of the 2019-20 Premier League season, winning each of their first seven games to be perched atop the summit of the division. The latest success came at Bramall Lane last weekend, with the Reds just about edging a tricky Sheffield United side 1-0.
Leicester City, too, have been in fine touch at the start of their league campaign, rising up to the upper echelons of the table. The Foxes are third in the standings, with their solitary loss coming at the hands of Manchester United. The weekend encounter will be special for manager Brendan Rodgers, who will be returning to Anfield for the first time since being sacked by Liverpool four years ago.
The corresponding fixture last season ended with the spoils being shared, as Leicester came back from a goal down to hold Liverpool to a 1-1 draw, courtesy a Harry Maguire strike. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jurgen Klopp is on the verge of having a full-strength squad, but will have to wait till the end of the international break to have some of his troops back. The good news ahead of the visit of Leicester City is the potential return of Alisson Becker, who has resumed training this week.
The Liverpool No. 1 has been unavailable since the opening day of the season due to a calf injury. Klopp has suggested that Alisson could mark his return against Leicester, but is unlikely to be rushed, especially with Adrian deputising extremely well over the last couple of months.
Among those who will certainly not play a part against Leicester is Joel Matip, who continues to recover from a knock he sustained at Sheffield United last weekend. In his absence, Joe Gomez will partner Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool defence once again. Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold pick themselves as the two full-backs.
Up ahead in midfield, Klopp is unlikely to make any changes, considering the magnitude of the tie. Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum, who scored the only goal at Bramall Lane last week, will be required for their tirelessness. Fabinho will hold the fort in front of defence while also opening up play with his precise long balls.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are all automatic selections in the final third and will form the three-pronged attacking unit once again. Firmino, in particular, will hold the key to throw the in-form Wilfred Ndidi off his game.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Like Jurgen Klopp, Brendan Rodgers, too, has greeted a hugely positive update on one of his key players ahead of his return to one of the former clubs he has managed. Against Liverpool on Saturday, the Leicester City boss will welcome James Maddison back to his side.
Maddison was absent for the Foxes’ 5-0 rout of Newcastle United last weekend, but has recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him ahead of the trip to Liverpool. The English playmaker will likely slot straight back into the starting lineup, with Dennis Praet the unlucky player to miss out.
Rodgers could omit Ayoze Perez to keep Praet in the lineup and make use of a midfield diamond that he had experimented with in the pre-season. But, such a formation would leave Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira, expected to be Leicester’s two full-backs, exposed to the double assault from their Liverpool counterparts as well as Salah and Mane.
So, Praet will return to the bench, with Perez starting on the right side of the Leicester attack, while Harvey Barnes ought to line up on the opposite flank. Maddison and Youri Tielemans will pull the strings for the visitors, looking to set Jamie Vardy up. Wilfred Ndidi will play the Anchor Man role in front of the backline.
Vardy will be hopeful of continue being clinical in front of goal, with Leicester exceeding their xG of 8 goals by a staggering 5 goals. What the visitors will also need is for Maddison to keep things simple and be at his creative best, with the Englishman often being guilty of trying too much at times this season.
As iterated earlier, there is no looking past Ricardo and Chilwell for the full-back roles. The heart of the defence will be manned by Jonny Evans and the impressive Caglar Soyuncu. Kasper Schmeichel, who will don the captain’s armband for Leicester, will take his place in goal for the Foxes.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Ndidi; Perez, Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy
1. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.57
2. Over 10.5 Corners @ 2.00
1. Leicester Draw No Bet @ 5.50
- Liverpool are unbeaten in eight Premier League home matches against Leicester City, since a 2-0 defeat in May 2000 (W6 D2).
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 43 Premier League games at home – the longest current run in the top five European leagues, and Liverpool’s second longest ever in top-flight history. Their previous best streak at Anfield, 63 matches between February 1978 and December 1980, was eventually ended by Leicester.
- Leicester have won only one of their last 23 Premier League fixtures on the road against ‘Big Six’ sides, a 1-0 success at Chelsea on in December 2018.
- Liverpool (16) are just three wins away from bettering the English top-flight record of most successive wins, currently held by Manchester City (18).
- Since Brendan Rodgers’s first match with Leicester in March, Jamie Vardy has scored more Premier League goals than any other player, netting 14 in 17 games.
Player to Watch
Adrian was one of the contenders for this section, with Alisson Becker’s return looming. But, when Leicester City face off against the best of sides, all eyes are invariably on Jamie Vardy, who has such an incredible record against ‘Big Six’ teams.
In just 58 games versus the established top-six clubs, Vardy has an astonishing tally of 34 goals to his name. A closer look reveals just how impressive this record is, with only Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney finding the back of the net more often against ‘Big Six’ opposition.
Liverpool are Vardy’s second favourite rivals, with the English hit-man scoring 7 goals when he has faced the Reds. If he manages to add to his tally at Anfield, a shock result might just be on the cards, propelling Leicester into being genuine top four challengers, if not just the top six.
Liverpool 3-2 Leicester City
A first look at our prediction would leave many stunned, what with Liverpool and Leicester City boasting the joint-best defensive records in the Premier League. But, the UEFA Champions League outing against Red Bull Salzburg exposed a chink in the Reds’ armour, with Joe Gomez particularly suspect.
With Leicester being the most clinical side in the league, and with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino signalling a return to form, a goal-fest could be on the cards on Saturday. Brendan Rodgers will be eager to get one up on his former employers on his return to Anfield for the first time since he was dismissed from his job as the Liverpool boss.
The Premier League leaders, however, have shown a gritty side to their game in the early stages of the season, memorably grinding out results in each of their last two fixtures. And so, we believe, the hosts will just about edge Leicester on the day. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-2 win for Liverpool, a result which will send them into the international break, still sitting atop the table.