Liverpool v Leicester | Saturday 26 December | Anfield | 17:00
Liverpool have a good record against Leicester – unbeaten in their last six meetings with four victories. However, Claudio Ranieri has two vicious foxes in Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy – many have failed to stop them from running havoc.
To Win Match
Klopp will be licking his wounds after watching his Liverpool side collapse last Sunday, as they were humbled 3-0 by a ruthless Watford outfit. Opening goals from Nathan Ake and Odion Ighalo gave the hosts a two-goal lead at half-time, and the latter sealed the points with his second strike late in the game. The Reds are without a win in four matches - failing to find the net in three of those games and conceding seven goals. It's been a sharp plummet back to earth for a team that initially showed such promise following the arrival of Klopp at the helm in October.
However, a recent poor run of form has lead to doubt being raised as to whether the German has improved matters since arriving. The Reds are only one place higher in the Premier League table from when Brendan Rodgers was sacked two months ago – the honeymoon with Klopp and Liverpool is over. Since the German took over, the Reds have produced a number of stunning displays, including a fantastic 4-1 win over Premier League title favourites Manchester City. Liverpool have looked superb at times, even if it hasn't always led to wins. But the squad has also looked sluggish and almost disinterested on occasions. Klopp will be racking his brains in a desperate attempt to work out how to win in an unfamiliar league with a squad that appears to have been thrown together without any consideration for how the starting XI might look.
The Reds will face a difficult challenge against in-form Leicester City and Klopp will be hoping for a positive response from his players. On paper, the home side should be able to match the talents of N'Golo Kante, Mahrez and Vardy. In reality, there is more appetite, competitiveness and leadership in the Leicester trio than in all of Liverpool's first-team.
Philippe Coutinho is the cream of The Kop and the catalyst in most of Liverpool’s attacking play with his ability to run through an opponents midfield which creates ample chances for his side. The Brazilian playmaker will be key to Liverpool’s chances of victory as he has shown his ability to create something out of nothing. His creativity, skill, and vision are huge assets, and when the Brazilian is on form, he’s almost unplayable.
Leicester City's fairytale continued after they defeated Everton 3-2 at Goodison Park last Saturday. Two penalties from Mahrez helped the Foxes to the win, and they will now be placed as England's top side on Christmas Day. The achievement was made all the more incredible by the fact that just one year ago, the Foxes were bottom of the Premier League come December 25.
This bubble is not going to burst and Leicester have to be taken seriously as contenders along with Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs. They have racked up eight wins in ten games and are riding a tidal wave of confidence. Ranieri's experience, combined with his readiness to trust his players to be bold, has helped raise Leicester to another level following Nigel Pearson's departure as manager in the summer.
The Foxes play an exciting flexible style of football, adept at pressing high up on the pitch and also sit deep if need be and catch teams on the counter with ruthless efficiency. They work extremely hard and have a boundless energy which is capable of overwhelming opponents. Further up the pitch, they are blessed with a talent littered assortment of options who boast pace and power in abundance, with these attributes allowing them to break with devastating efficiency. Mahrez is capable of providing that moment of magic as he possesses excellent vision, sure passing ability and a fine first touch. The Algerian offers a threat in the final third as he has the ability to score goals and create opportunities for his team-mates. He will provide a constant threat on the wing and pester Liverpool’s fullbacks with his blinding pace, quick feet, brilliant creativity and an eye for goal.
Vardy remains Leicester’s focal point in attack and the Englishman will be looking to extend his tally of 15 goals scored this season against the Reds. He is a goal machine and has formed a lethal partnership with Mahrez.
Prediction: Leicester City 26/10
Liverpool have been below par and are winless in four games. Leicester are unbeaten away from home this season with four wins on the trot. If Troy Deeney and Ighalo had it so easy against Liverpool, the deadly duo of Vardy and Mahrez could be in for a field day. I’m going for the away win at 26/10.
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