29 December 2017

Liverpool v Leicester 12.30.17

10am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (a) 09.23.17
0-2 Leicester (a; League Cup) 09.19.17
1-3 Leicester (a) 02.27.17
4-1 Liverpool (h) 09.10.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 5-0 Swansea (h); 3-3 Arsenal (a); 4-0 Bournemouth (a)
Leicester: 1-2 Watford (a); 2-2 United (h); 1-1 City aet [3-4 pens] (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Salah 15; Firmino 9; Coutinho 7; Mané 4; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge 2; Alexander-Arnold, Can, Henderson, Lovren, Matip, Wijnaldum 1
Leicester: Vardy 8; Mahrez, Okazaki 6; Gray 3; Maguire 2; Albrighton, Iborra, King 1

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Gomez Matip Klavan Robertson
Milner Can Alex O-C
Salah Firmino Mané

Guessing tomorrow's XI seems almost a fool's errand.

There will be changes. There have been changes from match-to-match all month long. And Liverpool have another match exactly 46 hours after this one ends.

I suspect it'll be more 4-3-3 than 4-4-2 given Leicester's playing style and that Liverpool are at home but, as against Swansea, even when Liverpool line up 4-3-3, there are elements of 4-4-2. From there, my guessed XI is plug-and-play based on who fits and who's available.

Firmino, Salah, and Robertson all had some rest when taken off against Swansea. Can seemingly has to play as the deepest midfielder in this formation, but could be flanked by Coutinho, Wijnaldum, Milner, Lallana, or Oxlade-Chamberlain. Salah seems to play every match. There seems no reason to change the Matip-Klavan partnership, Gomez will probably come back in for Alexander-Arnold, and evidently Mignolet's keeping his place until the heat-death of the universe.

Henderson, Moreno, Sturridge, and Clyne remain absent. I know Henderson's been a preferred scapegoat this season – and admittedly often hasn't been at his best – but he'll be a big miss in midfield with fixture overload.

And, no, Virgil van Dijk won't be available. It's not even January. He's not even a Liverpool player. You've got at least a week to wait.

Meanwhile, Leicester. Are back to Leicestering. Four games without a win belies what they've done since Claude Puel took over. A 1-1 draw with Manchester City in the League Cup was impressive, only losing on penalties, as was a 2-2 draw with United thanks to an injury time equalizer. Last Tuesday's 1-2 loss at Watford certainly wasn't great, but came about with a rotated side and the losing goal via a Schmeichel own goal.

The festive season poses Leicester problems though. They're often reliant on Vardy and Mahrez. There's not a ton of depth or the ability to rotate. They could well look at Huddersfield on Monday as the more important match – or, at least the match where they're more likely to take all three points.

But they'll pose problems, as they did under Shakespeare in Liverpool's 3-2 league win a few months back. As they did in their 2-0 League Cup win over Liverpool four days prior to the league meeting. Vardy and Mahrez are a pain in the butt on counters. As is Demarai Gray, when he comes up with an end product. Albrighton and Fuchs are excellent crossers. And Okazaki – who started against Watford and rarely starts two in a row – has caused Liverpool problems in the last few meetings.

So let's guess Schmeichel; Dragovic, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs; Albrighton, Ndidi, Iborra, Gray; Mahrez; Vardy. Either Gray or Albrighton would be left out if Okazaki or Slimani start up front with Vardy. King's an option in midfield; Chilwell could keep his place at left-back. Simpson and Huth are out injured.

Forget the future. Burnley on Monday, Everton in the FA Cup, the imminency of the Virgil van Dijk era. Tomorrow's Leicester. A side that's given Liverpool fits, but more often away from home, with Liverpool unbeaten against the Foxes at Anfield since promotion. But Liverpool's disappointed at Anfield, with the same number of draws as wins in the league – all five of those draws regrettable, all five either 1-1 or 0-0 – the main reason Liverpool are clinging onto fourth. And Liverpool are clinging onto fourth, just one point ahead of both Arsenal and Tottenham while Chelsea and United are four and five points ahead respectively.

Leicester will sit deep, Leicester will counter, Leicester will have chances. Liverpool are missing players, in a time of the season where missing players truly punishes. There have been a lot of games over the last month, there will be more games over the next week without a break.

But if Liverpool do what Liverpool are capable of – at both ends of the pitch, regardless of who starts – these should not be issues.


Anonymous said...

God and the Queen will be wearing blue. 🦊

Anonymous said...

Be away with you, it will be a sea of red

Truc To said...

Excellent analysis as usual

Eugene Kua said...

Have been following your blogs for a few years, and it is amazing how you have persevered throughout with quality pieces! Happy holidays and wish to see something on our new CB signing!