So this is what it has come to. Liverpool, the once indestructible champions of England have been reduced to mere top 4 contenders. Grouped in with the likes of Chelsea, Leicester, and Spurs. On Saturday evening, they take on a talented Leicester City under former gaffer Brendan Rodgers. Here at Ball that matters, we will be doing an in-depth preview of this crucial clash.
Form and Buildup
Liverpool were on the rise before two defeats against Brighton and City (the latter being an utter humiliation) knocked them down to reality. The Reds look fragile at the back and toothless in attack. This has resulted in them falling 10 points behind City and 5 points behind United. They are now amongst a host of teams fighting for European qualification.
FORM (LAST 5 PL) – LLWWL
Leicester is coming into this match on the back of a goalless draw against Wolves. Their form hasn’t been great and they have failed to capitalize on their opportunities to cement their spot as a top 4 side. They won their FA Cup tie with Brighton in midweek. They’ll be confident against this downbeat Liverpool side.
FORM (LAST 5 PL) – DWLDW
Team News and Predicted XIs
Liverpool is without Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Diogo Jota, and Naby Keita. All of them are out with long term injuries. Klopp also confirmed that Fabinho will be ruled out of the Leicester clash. It is now becoming increasingly likely that Kabak will start at center-back on Saturday.
Leicester are without Timothy Castagne, Wilfried Ndidi, and Wesley Fofana. All of them are on the comeback trail but will take time to return to action. The worrying news is the ACL tear suffered by James Justin against Brighton. Several rumours have even suggested that he may be out for the season. This is a worrying sign for Leicester, who are looking increasingly thin in the fullback department. Jamie Vardy is fit and should be back in time for the Liverpool game.
In 14 head-to-head encounters between the two sides, Liverpool holds a clear advantage. They have won nine games, lost three, and drawn two. The two clubs last faced each other last year in the English Premier League, with Liverpool beating Leicester City 3-0. An own goal from experienced center-back Jonny Evans and goals from Portuguese attacker Diogo Jota and Brazil international Roberto Firmino sealed the deal for Liverpool.
Players to watch out for
Mohamed Salah is one of the few bright sparks in this faltering Liverpool side. The Egyptian King still leads the golden boot charts by a comfortable margin. He has been Liverpool’s most potent attacking threat, even in their losses. He will be eager to extend his tally and will be happy to match up against Daley Campbell. Daley will start at left-back as a result of Justin’s injury. If Salah is in top form, nobody can stop him, and he looks like he’s raring to go.
This is a bit left field, given his disastrous performance against City. Alisson is one of the most vital players in this match. The Brazilian goalkeeper, who is amongst the best in the world, suffered a couple of uncharacteristic and catastrophic errors. These ultimately cost Liverpool the match against City. Nevertheless, the fans and players are in support of him, and he will be hoping to bounce back with a clean sheet. He should recover from the adversity soon.
James Maddison has been one of the standout performers of Leicester’s current campaign alongside Harvey Barnes. The English playmaker has been at the forefront of all attacking play at Leicester. He has put himself in the reckoning for the England Euro squad with these performances. Madders has been in scintillating form and tops the goal involvements charts for the foxes in the last 7 fixtures. His delivery from set plays and his threat from close range free kicks add to his all-round ability. Liverpool must handle him with caution on Saturday.
Leicester’s target man is back for one of the biggest clashes of his season. That too with an opponent he usually loves to score against. He had missed the last few games (thanks to a sports hernia). Vardy will be itching to get back and make an impact with this Leicester side going forward. His finishing ability and acceleration make him one of the most potent attacking players in the league. He will be looking to extend his tally as the Foxes talisman against a makeshift Liverpool defense.
This game is a proper top 4 clash and the result will have implications on the race for Europe. This is a game that both teams cannot afford to lose. Especially as they need to be in top form going into their respective European clashes in the next midweek. Given Liverpool’s fragility and Leicester’s resurgence – it really is a clash that could go either way.
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