Liverpool will be desperate to return to winning ways when they take on Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
The action continues to come at a breakneck speed all across Europe and in England, Gameweek 24 of the 2020/21 Premier League season begins this weekend. The opening match in the latest round of fixtures will be played at the King Power Stadium, where Leicester City will play hosts to Liverpool in Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off.
Leicester City have once again proven to be tough customers to deal with and they have enjoyed a strong 2020/21 campaign till date. The Foxes have never ended a matchday outside the top four and are currently third in the standings, although they have dropped points in three of their last four league games.
Heading into the weekend, Brendan Rodgers & co. progressed to the FA Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Brighton & Hove Albion. Liverpool, on the other hand, were not involved in the FA Cup earlier this week after being knocked out by Manchester United in the fourth round.
A near-week long rest could have perhaps, been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Reds, who have seen their majestic unbeaten run at Anfield end spectacularly since the turn of the year. The Reds have lost each of their last three home games while winning just two of their seven league games in 2021.
The reverse fixture, played at Anfield in November, saw Liverpool cruise to a 3-0 win over Leicester in what was one of the Reds’ best performances this season. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Brendan Rodgers has one pressing injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Liverpool. On Saturday, the Leicester City manager could be bereft of the services of as many as six first-team players.
James Justin is the latest absentee for Leicester, having sustained a gruesome-looking knee injury in the 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion earlier this week. While Rodgers has since suggested that the injury might not be as bad as was initially feared, Justin is still expected to miss out this weekend against Liverpool.
Apart from the Englishman, the likes of Wesley Fofana (hamstring), Wes Morgan (back), Timothy Castagne (hamstring) and Dennis Praet (hamstring) remain unavailable, while Ayoze Perez is a major doubt for Leicester. Among the absentees, it is the void left by Justin, Fofana, Castagne and Morgan that has practically left Rodgers down to his bare bones in defence.
Vontae Daley-Campbell impressed on debut for Leicester in the midweek cup fixture, but he is only likely to be an option on the bench, with Ricardo Pereira and Christian Fuchs being the two starters out wide. At the heart of the Leicester defence, there is no looking past Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu, with Kasper Schmeichel a certainty in goal.
Up ahead in midfield, Wilfred Ndidi’s return could not be better times, with the Nigerian set to start again in the double pivot alongside Youri Tielemans. Tielemans will have a big role to play during the build-ups, wherein he will combine with James Maddison and Harvey Barnes to carve out the openings within a frail-looking Liverpool backline.
Maddison will reprise the no. 10 role and will have the freedom to find pockets of spaces to pull the strings higher up the pitch. Barnes will have a bigger role to play in the final third in the absence of Justin, whereas Jamie Vardy should lead the line for Leicester against Liverpool, and his movement will be crucial for the Foxes to engineer the chances. The final spot in the side will be taken up by Marc Albrighton.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Fuchs; Ndidi, Tielemans; Albrighton, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy
Unlike his counterpart in the Leicester City dugout, Jurgen Klopp does not have any fresh issues to contend with ahead of the trip to the King Power Stadium. On Saturday, the Liverpool manager will continue to have to make do without five first-team players.
The major absentees for Liverpool are the three senior centre-backs – Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joe Gomez (knee) and Joel Matip (ankle) – who are set to miss the remainder of the season. In addition, Naby Keita (knock) and Diogo Jota (knee) remain unavailable as well, although the duo are closing in on their return from their respective injuries.
Meanwhile, there have been concerns raised over the potential absence of Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara after they missed training this week. And, it has been confirmed that the Brazilian is set to miss out due to a recurrence of his muscle injury, although there have been no suggestions about Thiago missing the game against Leicester, meaning he should feature.
In Fabinho’s absence, Ben Davies ought to line up at the heart of the Liverpool defence, where he will have Ozan Kabak for company, with the Turk making his debut for the Reds. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will likely continue as the full-backs despite their sub-par displays against Manchester City and the same goes for Alisson Becker, who was abysmal in goal last time out.
Kabak’s potential debut means Jordan Henderson ought to return to his role in the middle of the park, with the Liverpool captain expected to sit at the base of the three-man midfield. From there, he will look to negate the influence of James Maddison, with defensive support coming from Thiago and Wijnaldum. If Thiago is not fit to start, Curtis Jones could feature from the off again.
Finally, in attack, there is no looking past Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who will hope to step up after being struck by a bout of inconsistency in recent weeks. With Jota still out injured, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi remain the only backup attacking options on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Davies, Robertson; Thiago, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
1. Leicester Asian Handicap +0.5 @ 1.725
1. Leicester to win @ 3.50
- Liverpool have won 12 of their past 17 Premier League meetings with Leicester City, including six of the most recent seven. In fact, Leicester have lost their last three league matches against the Reds at the King Power Stadium.
- Leicester have only managed to win one game and amass four points in their last four Premier League matches. In addition, the Foxes have lost five home league games in 2020/21, one more than the whole of last season. Only 16 of their 43 points have come at home
- Liverpool have suffered five defeats in nine matches across all competitions in 2021. The Reds have won three games and drawn once. They have only scored just eight goals in nine Premier League matches since beating Crystal Palace 7-0.
- Liverpool have lost successive Premier League fixtures for the first time under Jurgen Klopp; the Reds have not lost three in a row since November 2014, under current Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers.
- James Maddison has been involved in six goals in his last six Premier League appearances at home, scoring four and setting up two.
Player to Watch
As the January transfer window came to a close, it became clear that Liverpool absolutely had to enter the market for a centre-back or two. They did exactly that, with Ozan Kabak one of two deadline day signings, whose arrival was believed to be the first step in solving a brewing crisis.
Since then, the woes have only worsened further, with Kabak and Ben Davies being given time to settle down at the club. Now, though, having been at Liverpool for over ten days, it looks like Kabak is set for his bow with the Reds and that solves two problems. Firstly, it means that a natural centre-back will be stationed at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
More importantly, though, it will send Jordan Henderson back into the midfield, which in turn will likely provide more stability in the middle of the park and alleviate the pressure off the defenders. However, Kabak needs to impress instantly, for a poor debut could force Klopp to drop Henderson back into the backline. A big game beckons the Turk.
Leicester City 1-1 Liverpool
At a time when the struggling Liverpool side needs a shot in the arm and swiftly turn their form around, a game against a high-flying Leicester City could not be more ill-timed. However, for some reason, the Reds seem to always reserve their best performances against Leicester City.
That was the case against the Foxes in the reverse fixture as well while the corresponding game last season saw them produce a stunning display. This time around, however, things are different, as Liverpool are failing to muster up the chances in the final third while their defence is crumbling.
The latter should be taken care of if Jordan Henderson returns in midfield, but the struggles out in the front will likely continue against a resolute Leicester defence. In the end, the game should be too close to call, with Leicester, too, struggling to some extent in the absence of James Justin, with Jamie Vardy continuing to build his fitness. The Hard Tackle, therefore, predicts a 1-1 draw.