Liverpool vs. Leicester City: Who Will Prevail?
This weekend sees a coming together of the reigning champions Leicester City and the ever-evolving Jürgen Klopp project at Liverpool Football Club.
Both sides spent the summer retooling to add depth, with Klopp bringing in more players to fit his style and Claudio Ranieri adding depth ahead of his club’s imminent adventure in the Champions League.
While Leicester lost lynchpin N'Golo Kanté to Chelsea, Ranieri did well to ward off interest from Arsenal and maintain the services of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. Meanwhile, Klopp tightened up his squad by letting go of deadwood to balance out the incoming signings of Sadio Mané, Georginio Wijnaldum, Joël Matip, and others.
Liverpool still have work to do to return to the heights of competing for the title, while Leicester are hoping to avoid a hangover after their dizzying championship run last season. They're two clubs that had drastically different feelings about how they finished off the last campaign, but both are in a similar position in terms of the work that lies ahead of them this year.
The Season So Far
Both clubs have 1-1-1 records through their first three matches, having shown flashes of brilliance but also some serious lapses in play.
Liverpool followed up a 4-3 win in an up-and-down match against Arsenal with a 2-0 loss against newly-promoted Burnley. They then settled for a 1-1 draw with Spurs that they will be bitterly disappointed not to have won, having had several chances to put their opponents away before Danny Rose equalized.
Leicester also started their season with matches against a newly-promoted side and Arsenal. First up was a disappointing 2-1 loss to Hull, where the Foxes looked a step off the pace at times, but they were able to salvage a 0-0 draw with the Gunners in their second match to gain a little momentum.
Their third time out was another step in the right direction, as Ranieri’s men dominated play for the first hour against Swansea. Mahrez did miss a penalty that could have given them a more comfortable lead when they were still 2-0 up, but they ultimately held on for a respectable 2-1 win.
Following the international break, both sides will be looking to get a win against a quality opponent to further their claims as contenders in what may be the most competitive landscape the Premier League has ever seen.
Liverpool have been taking more shots than Leicester so far this season and scoring at a slightly higher rate. However, Klopp may omit Philippe Coutinho -- who has accounted for two of the Reds’ goals and been arguably their most important player thus far -- from his starting lineup, due to travel time back from international duty with Brazil.
|Shots per game||18.3||13|
|Goals per game||1.7||1|
The club has made special arrangements to get the player back as early as possible, but it is still likely he will start from the bench, perhaps with the intent of bringing him on to provide a spark in the second half.
One byproduct of this may be Daniel Sturridge starting in his preferred position of center forward, with Roberto Firmino being shifted to the left in Coutinho’s absence, after Sturridge recently spoke out about his distaste for being deployed out wide.
It is believed that Klopp prefers to use Firmino in the central role for his willingness to chase down defenders and attempt to win back possession, so if Sturridge does indeed get the nod, it may be in his best interest to put in some hustle on the defensive side of the ball if he wants to stake a claim.
Summer signing Loris Karius has returned to full training as he continues to recover from a broken hand, but there is still a question as to whether he will displace Simon Mignolet for this one, as the player himself has stated he will “take no risks” in his recovery.
At the other end of the pitch, Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel is also recovering from an operation -- his for a hernia -- and looks like he may miss out as well. If that is the case, Ron-Robert Zieler would fill in.
New signing Islam Slimani may get his first start for the Foxes up top, alongside Jamie Vardy. Ranieri will be looking to set up his side to make the most of chances on the counter, as Liverpool look likely to have the better of the possession.
|Aerial Duel Success||39%||48%|
Mahrez in particular is one to watch in this match. While he has not gotten off to the quickest of starts this season, he is likely to be marked by James Milner, as Liverpool did not make a move to upgrade at left back before the transfer window closed. On the other side, Liverpool would do well to keep the ball on the ground, as Leicester are a better team in the air, aided by their hulking center back duo of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. Turnovers from aerial balls could lead to breakout passes to the likes of Vardy and Mahrez, which could spell danger for a shaky Liverpool back line.
If Leicester are able to get the ball to Mahrez on the wing, that is a definite mismatch they will look to exploit. The combined speed of stars Mahrez and Vardy will be difficult for the likes of Matip and Dejan Lovren to handle once the attack shifts to the center.
Leicester, however, are not strong at defending attacks down the sidelines, where Liverpool thrive. There is no doubt the Reds will create chances from the wings, but it will be upon whomever gets the nod in the middle to finish them off.
Liverpool and Leicester are two sides with contrasting styles, and they both have defensive weaknesses that the other side is well-equipped to exploit.
It is also likely that neither side will have their first-choice keeper in the net, so expect some goals in this one. At the end of the day, with the Anfield crowd at their backs for the first time this season, Liverpool may have the slight edge (and have a -143 line to win according to bet365), but maintaining possession and minimizing counter-attacking opportunities for Leicester will be essential.