Tottenham Hotspur will return to action after a devastating COVID-19 outbreak when they travel to the King Power to face Leicester City on Thursday night.
Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur have both had their weeks obstructed by COVID-19, with the latter side having their last two games postponed due to the virus. The outbreak had a severe impact on the Spurs side, who have as many as 13 players and members of staff affected while having to shut down their training facilities.
It remains to be seen how many players will be available at Antonio Conte’s disposal, but a fairly depleted squad is expected to make the trip to Leicester as they look to make up for the lost time in their domestic aspirations. The Lilywhites have gained a bit of momentum since the arrival of Conte and are unbeaten in the Premier League under the Italian but falling short at Everton and NS Mura suggests they are still a work in progress.
Similar to Spurs, Leicester have been struggling with a raft of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, as at least seven players were ruled out of contention for the visit of Newcastle. But a spirited side, vying for redemption following their Europa League exit to the hands of Napoli, outclassed the Magpies with a comprehensive 4-0 victory at the King Power Stadium with James Maddison and Youri Tielemans particularly impressive on the day.
Tottenham Hotspur sit seventh in the Premier League standings with 25 points from 14 games. The Foxes are in ninth place with 22 points in 16. Tottenham hold an advantage over teams around them like Leicester and Arsenal, having played two fewer games, but it remains to be seen whether Conte’s men can capitalise on it or not.
Tottenham ran out 4-2 winners at the King Power Stadium in the corresponding fixture on the final day of the last season to secure Europa Conference League status. Ahead of the latest meeting between them, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Leicester City (@LCFC) December 15, 2021
Leicester have struggled with injuries this campaign, especially in defence. To add to their woes, Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu have been added to the long list of injury absentees. Both centre-backs are struggling with hamstring problems following the victory over Newcastle and will miss out on Thursday’s game.
Seven other players remain unavailable due to illness and Covid-related issues, including Kelechi Iheanacho, Jannik Vestergaard, Hamza Choudhury, Ayoze Perez and Ademola Lookman. Meanwhile, James Justin and Wesley Fofana also remain sidelined with long-term injuries. However, Daniel Amartey will be back in the squad after a full recovery.
Rodgers may prefer to opt for a 4-2-3-1 system which brought success against Newcastle, but with no fit central defenders at the club, he will be forced into making some personnel changes. Kasper Schmeichel is a certain starter between the sticks after preserving only his second clean sheet of the season against Newcastle last weekend.
Ben Nelson, 17, was on the bench last weekend, but Rodgers would rather find another option than throw the youngster into the deep end against Tottenham. Wilfred Ndidi will almost probably have to play at the back again after faring well against Newcastle, while Amartey could be forced into action straightaway after just becoming available.
Ricardo Pereira will start in his natural right-back position, whereas Luke Thomas slots in on the left, and their main job will be to remain compact and not give Tottenham wing-backs much space to work with. Youri Tielemans and Boubakary Soumare will feature in the double midfield pivot. Both of them will look to control the midfield battle and create some decent chances from the engine room while also screening the backline.
James Maddison is expected to play as a free-flowing attacking midfielder down the right of the three-man attacking unit behind the main striker, with Kevin Dewsbury-Hall and Harvey Barnes the supporting cast. Rodgers may opt to keep Jamie Vardy among the reserves before some testing clashes, which means Patson Daka will get the nod to lead the line after impressing last time out, bagging a goal and an assist against Newcastle.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Amartey, Ndidi, Thomas; Tielemans, Soumare; Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall, Barnes; Daka
Tottenham will play for the first time since December 5 after their Covid outbreak, which struck down nine players. Antonio Conte has revealed that three players have returned to training in the last two days and could feature on the bench at the King Power Stadium. Cristian Romero (hamstring) is the only long-term injury absentee with the Italian coach confirming that Giovani Lo Celso has recovered and will be in contention.
Although no official names were mentioned, Bryan Gil, Emerson Royal, Son Heung-min, Oliver Skipp, Dane Scarlett and Lucas Moura are all believed to have tested positive for coronavirus and could miss out. Conte has shuffled his lineup frequently since arriving which suggests he has not found his best eleven yet, and this Covid situation has done him no favours.
Antonio provides an update on the fitness of our squad ⤵️
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 15, 2021
Conte could set Tottenham up in his favoured 3-4-2-1 formation, with fringe players Tanguy Ndombele, Joe Rodon and Dele Alli all pushing to make their first start under the Italian. In goal, there is no looking past Hugo Lloris. Guarding the Frenchman will be the three-man defensive unit of Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies.
Up ahead in midfield, the double midfield pivot will be composed of Harry Winks and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. If the Danish enforcer is not available, there would be a window of opportunity for Ndombele or Lo Celso, who will otherwise take their places on the bench. With Emerson out, Japhet Tanganga should start on the right flank, with Sergio Reguilon on the opposite side, providing he recovers from his injury from the Norwich game.
Tottenham are a little short in attack, as a result of which Steven Bergwijn and Dele Alli may both feature from the outset here sitting behind the talismanic striker Harry Kane, who will look to add on his great scoring record of 17 goals in 16 appearances against Leicester.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Sanchez, Dier, Davies; Tanganga, Winks, Hojbjerg, Reguilon; Bergwijn, Alli; Kane
- Leicester City have won two of their previous four league games against Tottenham (L2), while Spurs have fared better in the last ten league meetings (W6 L3 D1).
- Leicester City have only lost one of their past eight midweek fixtures in the Premier League while they have won their last two league games on Thursdays.
- Tottenham have won just one of their last five Premier League games on the road, failing to score in each of their last two.
- This fixture has a history of producing goals galore. Since the Foxes returned to the top-flight in 2014, their 14 meetings with Spurs has seen 54 goals, with only Crystal Palace vs Liverpool and Arsenal vs Liverpool producing more goals in that period.
- Tottenham Hotspur have lost five of their past eight midweek games away from home.
Player to Watch
Despite Leicester’s inconsistencies this term, Brendan Rodgers will be quite pleased to see playmaker James Maddison regaining top form. Foxes No. 10 had a terrible 2020/21 season where he largely struggled through injury issues and a dip in form.
Fortunately, the attacking midfielder has finally found his stride this season, with four goals and three assists in 16 games, while he seems to be getting back to his lethal best in the final third, boasting 0.48 npxG+xA (Non-penalty Expected goals plus Expected assists) and nearly 5 SCA (Shot-Creating Actions) per 90 while his 3.1 shots per 90 rank him among the top 7% percentile of midfielders in that metric.
His blossoming partnership with Patson Daka will pose the biggest threat to the Tottenham backline in this game. After a stellar showing against Newcastle, the Englishman is brimming with confidence and will look to put another effective display on Thursday.
Leicester City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester have not been great at home this season. The 4-0 thrashing of the Magpies was only their third win in their past ten games in all competitions. But the home side seems to be finally producing the goods in the final third, having scored a staggering 11 goals in their last three home wins.
Meanwhile, Tottenham will look to get back on track in the Premier League and close the gap to the top four, but much will depend on the state of fitness of the players. They may be a little rusty while some of the regular stars might also be missing. Under normal conditions, there is not much separating the two sides. But teams generally tend to struggle with aftereffects of Covid bouts, which could be the case with Spurs.
There could be tired legs out there on the pitch, which means the Lilywhites will easily be overrun in the middle of the park. Youri Tielemans ran the show against Newcastle, and he can again do so here. The Foxes will inevitably be in much better shape and momentum heading into the fixture. Hence, The Hard Tackle predicts them to secure a comfortable 3-1 victory this midweek.