Leicester vs Liverpool Premier League Boxing Day PreviewWho: Leicester City vs Liverpool When: Thursday, December 26th @ 3:00pm ETLine: Leicester+240 | Draw +270 | Liverpool +108On October 5th, Liverpool hosted Leicester at Anfield. Leicester looked strong, but Liverpool was better. However, it almost ended in a draw.
Possession was even, but Liverpool created many more chances. They got off 18 shots (8 on target) to Leicester’s 2 and 1. Given the disparity, it’s not surprising that Liverpool had a 3.75 xG to Leicester’s .1. However, it wasn’t until a late penalty in the box against Sadio Mane and a James Milner conversion from the spot that put the game away for the Reds. The final score: 2-1.
Two months later, these sides are 1st and 2nd in the table. Liverpool are returning to England from Qatar as champions of the world. Jurgen Klopp’s crew won the FIFA Club World Cup last Saturday. They defeated two quality sides in Monterrey (Mexico) and Flamengo (Brazil) to claim the only major trophy the club has never won.That’s the good news.
The bad news is they lost in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to an ankle injury. And they may be physically and emotionally drained from the long trip.Leicester, however, have only taken 1 point from their previous two domestic matches. They drew Norwich 1-1 (!!!) and lost to third-place Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad.How will this one go? Here’s a preview.
Leicester vs Liverpool Boxing Day match preview
Brendan Rodgers knows his squad can’t afford to lose this match. Leicester are 10 behind Liverpool. And the Reds have a game in hand. While the Foxes are almost assuredly qualifying for the Champions League this season, a loss here would bury their title hopes. 538 thinks they’re buried already. The Man City-loving site has Leicester at 84% to qualify for the UCL, but less than 1% to win the EPL.Let’s look back at their October 5th match for some indicators of what played out and what may change.
As mentioned, the sides were even on possession. Liverpool created the most chances. Their finishing was poor. Mo Salah had five shots on goal with nothing to show for it. Milner, Mane, and Roberto Firmino had 3 a piece. Liverpool has played more long balls this season than any other EPL side, and did so against Leicester as well. The Reds delivered 78 long passes to Leicester’s 64. Liverpool played six through balls to Leicester’s 4. However, the Foxes actually out-crossed Liverpool 20 to 17.Leicester went heavy on attacking the left flank, both all of the possession and crosses produced virtually nil. The shot chart from the match is ridiculous.
Dejan Lovren had a stand out game, winning 5 aerials and 2 tackles. Unfortunately, Lovren is unavailable this match.As is Ox. And Fabinho. And Joel Matip.Liverpool are beset with injuries.Between the injuries and heavy fixture schedule, Klopp will be forced to adjust his line-up and tactics.How Liverpool could line-up to stifle Leicester’s attack
This really should come down to control of the midfield. James Maddison is Leicester’s best player and could make life miserable for Liverpool’s tired legs. Most of Leicester’s attack back in October came down the left (46%) by Maddison as they tried to exploit space left by TAA pushing up. Gini Wijnaldum, if fit, is rested and would provide a likely candidate for defensive cover in front of TAA. That’s really the key match-up. Somebody needs to be a complete nuisance on Maddison.
Jordan Henderson has absolutely bossed in the #6 role covering for Fabinho of late. The Skipper should get the call in this match as well.On the left, Klopp could go to either Naby Keita or James Milner. It’ll likely come down to who looks freshest in training.
Defensively, Liverpool will have to roll out TAA, VVD, Joe Gomez, and Andy Robertson. Gomez is starting to look like pre-injury Gomez again. That’s a huge lift if he keeps improving his form. Jamie Vardy has 17 goals this season, leading the Premier League. A lot has been made about Vardy finishing at historically high numbers. While he’s a candidate to regress to the mean, I’ll believe it when I see it. When you’re in form, you’re in form. Lovren’s big body helped contain Vardy in the first match. Can Gomez be as effective?
Offensively, Liverpool have been uneven in finishing their chances. However, Leicester have been very lucky they haven’t conceded more. While Çaglar Söyüncü and Jonny Evans have made all Fox fans say “Harry who?,” Leicester have been the second luckiest side in the EPL this season in terms of xGA. They’re tied with Liverpool for fewest goals conceded (14), but have a xGA of 21.38.