PREVIEW | Leicester City v Liverpool (Premier League)

It’s the battle of the top two in the Premier League as Liverpool have the chance to open up a 13-point lead over Leicester City with a game in hand. Such a large cushion would be the perfect late Christmas present for Jürgen Klopp on Boxing Day.

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Liverpool travel to the King Power stadium to face second-placed Leicester City as they look to extend their lead over their closest opponent in the League to 13 points.

Liverpool return from Qatar having won their third piece of silverware of 2019 — a Roberto Firmino goal separated the Reds from Brazilian side Flamengo with the contest lasting 120 minutes.

Leicester City played Liverpool’s main Premier League rivals, Manchester City, on Saturday. The Foxes took an undeserved lead in the first half, but Pep Guardiola’s side responded with three goals of their own as they closed the gap to second place to just one point.

Recent form

Leicester have gone two games without winning after gaining a maximum 24 points from the previous eight. However that winning run consisted of games they were expected to win — their toughest opponent was Burnley who sit 10th in the table, with the average position of those eight teams being 15th.


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That winning streak came to an end against Norwich City. Teemu Pukki gave the relegation-threatened Canaries an early lead before Jamie Vardy’s deflected effort levelled the score. Leicester then began to dominate and created a host of good chances, but they failed to convert. This resulted in the Foxes dropping points for the first time since start of October where they lost to Liverpool.

They then had the opportunity to cement themselves in second place when they travelled to the Etihad — win and they would be seven points clear of third. Brendan Rodgers’ game plan was clear from the first minute — defend deep and hit them on the counter, similar to Manchester United’s tactics the week before. One noticeable difference that it was only one player attacking City’s defence rather than four.

From the first whistle City were all over the away side and it was only a matter of time when they scored given their dominance. Jamie Vardy gave the away side an unlikely lead with an excellent finish, yet Leicester were not out of danger. Riyad Mahrez and İlkay Gündoğan flipped the score in favour of Man City’s before half time before a Gabriel Jesus goal settled the tie 20 minutes from time.

Liverpool were involved in the Club World Cup over the past week. A last-minute winner from Roberto Firmino saw the Reds progress to the final, with Naby Keïta opening the scoring following an excellent through ball by Salah. Rogelio Funes Mori levelled the score for Monterrey minutes later.  

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A much-changed Liverpool side were the better side but failed to make their dominance known, it was not until the trio of Firmino, Sadio Mané and Trent Alexander-Arnold were subbed on that Liverpool started to create chances. In the end it was two of the substitutes who combined to score the winner — an inch-perfect cross from Trent was slotted in from Firmino to give the Reds’ a chance to win the Club World Cup for the first time.

Liverpool were given the chance to win it and they grasped it with both hands, a nervy win over Flamengo which saw the game go into extra time saw Klopp win his third trophy for the club.

Liverpool should have been two up within five minutes but both Firmino and Keïta missed good chances. Mané thought he had won a penalty in the 90th minute but, after consultation with VAR, the referee somehow decided to give a free-kick to Flamengo.

Firmino then scored with his third chance of the game after Mané laid it on a plate for the Brazilian and, despite making hard work of the finish, he found the back of the net to win the competition for Liverpool.

Team news

Brendan Rodgers suggested that he will rest some of his team over the winter schedule. Following the Foxes victory over Everton in the League Cup, they now will play ten games between now and the end of January. Victory against Jürgen Klopp’s side is a big ask so he could play a weakened team, given the intensity at which Liverpool play.

Leicester City have the joint-best defensive record in the league and are difficult to break down. Our finishing nearly left us down at Anfield in the reverse fixture so when given the chance we must find the back of the net.

Their midfield is incredibly balanced and mature for such a young trio. James Maddison is a danger running from midfield, but Youri Tielemans has gotten himself among the goals recently so should also be considered a threat.

Leicester do rely on Jamie Vardy quite a lot. 17 of their 41 league goals have been scored by the Englishman, so stop him and you have a huge chance of keeping a clean sheet.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury means the Liverpool side pretty much picks itself. Georginio Wijnaldum will likely be the only change in the side from the final on Saturday, coming in for the Englishman.

The battle of the full-backs will be quite important with both sets having a huge influence on their team. The Liverpool duo came out on top at Anfield in the reverse fixture so a repeat of their performance will be welcome.

Two goals for Firmino will do him the world of good as the Brazilian has been off the pace for a while, but two decisive goals could see him return to his best.

Prediction

A Liverpool win would pretty much mean Leicester City are out of the title race, as it would increase the gap between the two sides to 13 points with Liverpool having a game in hand.

The Reds have had a perfect December. If we keep the form up, having such a huge gap in the league will be important given how the Reds have fared in January in recent seasons.

I think Liverpool will win, as Brendan Rodgers has rarely rotated his squad so in the latter stages of the game they may tire leaving space for Liverpool to take advantage of. I’m going with a 2-1 win. Sadio Mané likes scoring against Leicester and with the Senegalese being such an important figure in 2019 for club and county it is likely that he will find the back of the net.

Predicted final score: Leicester City 1-2 Liverpool

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