For my money, Leicester have the best squad outside of the ‘top 6’. The game at their place at the start of the season was a close run thing & they really made us work for the 3 points, dominating large parts of the second half.
Harry Maguire being passed fit is a huge plus for them, as is the return to this fixture of Jamie Vardy, having missed the previous game due to suspension. He’s no stranger to a goal against Liverpool.
As with Crystal Palace last time out, they have 2 decent fullbacks in Ricardo & Chilwell. They’ve got a solid axis of Ndidi breaking opposition counters & Maddison and Vardy springing their own. In their title winning season, Leicester were the archetypal counter attacking side. Since Puel has come in the personnel has changed a little & they seem to have moved away from this style of approach as is perhaps indicated by the statistics below. Nonetheless, Vardy remains their main threat. He has largely operated as a lone striker with a deeper supporting act:
In December when they played City, Puel went for a compact midfield of Albrighton (11), Mendy (24) and Ndidi (25) with Maddison (10) and Choudhury (38) ‘flanking’ Vardy (9), though Maddison played a lot closer to his striker, as you can see below from the action zones . I’d be stunned if we didn’t see Demarai Gray off their left tomorrow night however. They may well start with Lord Farquod lookalike Çağlar Söyüncü, a player we were tentatively linked with when he was at Freiburg & someone I’m looking forward to possibly seeing more of.
Here are some of Leicester’s statistics from 18/19 so far (in the Premier League):
In Maguire, Ndidi, Chilwell and Maddison they have some of my favourite players outside of the top 6. They’re a decent side, though their form has been peculiar to say the least, having beaten Chelsea, City & Everton and then losing to Cardiff, Newport, Southampton & Wolves.
Our injury worries are perhaps not as drastic as we’d thought initially. Klopp has just said that Van Dijk & Wijnaldum have trained and that Fabinho will train today so I’d imagine we’ll line-up something like this:
To Ranieri’s mind boggling Leicester, with Huth and Morgan dominating aerially, Kante shuttling and feeding the flying Mahrez and Vardy, Klopp’s Liverpool are a fine match. Klopp’s side have shown they can operate in this manner but can also strangle a game with possession dominance. I can see it being more of the latter tomorrow night.
For comparison with the above statistics for Leicester’s season so far, you can see that we’re outperforming our xG, we’re outperforming our xG against and we’re both counterattacking at a higher volume than Leicester as well as catching opponents offside an impressive 3.35 times per 90 ( a statistic which has gone under the radar a little in terms of how impressively we’ve been performing defensively).
This is a huge one – a real season defining fixture.
In truth, we’ve got to be winning games like this. I can see Salah causing them all sorts of problems but I think we may have to wait a while to see the opening goal, with both sides looking to keep it compact & limit opposition chances early on.
I’m going 2-0 Liverpool, both goals in the second half.