I’d take a draw today. There, I said it. I’ve set my stall out for today’s blog early on and I’ll be completely frank with you, I fear this game now that we are on the eve of it.
We’ve scored one goal away all season, which was in the 1-0 win over Burnley. We’ve gone to Brentford, Man City and Brighton and come away with nothing in terms of goals and clearly against well organised and well coached sides we’ve both struggled to break them down and in those first two instances we got our noses bloodied a little bit. So I can’t exactly confess to being over confident about the visit to the King Power Stadium.
The stats aren’t great for us either. Yes, we won their last season, but last season was a bit of an anomaly for most teams and there were more away wins because of the lack of fans and atmosphere than ever before, so today’s game will be very different than the one last season. There’s also the fact that Leicester have beaten us in three of the last five league matches and are three out four in the league overall. We’ve been smashed 3-0, we’ve lost 2-0, we’ve also had a smash-and-grab at the Emirates through a counter-attacking Jamie Vardy goal last season too during our barren run, so I am under no illusions that today’s game is going to be massively difficult.
Vardy is fit n’all. And we all know what that means. His record is so good it already feels like we’re one behind before a ball is kicked, because he has 11 goals in 13 matches including the winner at the Emirates last season. Brendan Rodgers confirmed this midweek that he has been rested for today’s game and so he’ll start today and will be an absolute menace to our centre halves.
Which is why I am hoping we have a full strength back line today. Ramsdale in goal, Tomiyasu at right back, White and Gabriel in the middle and ideally Tierney in at left back, but Tavares’ performance against Villa and the natural confidence he will have as a result of it, mean that I’d be less worried if he was given the nod. IF White doesn’t make it though, I will be honest and say I am a little fearful of the other options up against Vardy et al. Holding and Chambers have both shown their fragilities and just how much of a difference in the team when they are in ahead of the current first choice centre back pairings. On the eye Holding looks like the player who is the slowest and so you’d fear it if he started, but he went off injured in midweek so it may be that Chambers is given the nod. He is a quicker player I believe, but his positioning is what worries me and at 34 Jamie Vardy is a clever wily old fox who will take up those good positions rather than rely on the rapid pace he had five years ago. So for me I would take a little bit more confidence if White and Gabriel both start; assuming both are fully fit of course.
In midfield it has to be Partey and Lokonga. We can’t go with Partey sitting and two number eights playing off him because it didn’t work against Palace and Leicester will be better than Palace were. Against Brentford they deployed a 3-4-3 style with Maddison dropping to the 10 and Vardy and Iheanacho as the two strikers. Both have pace and will look to exploit that against our back line and Maddison will drop in between lines to probe, which is why we need a double pivot at the base of our midfield. Then I think we should try what we did against Villa and have Lacazette operating as a hybrid striker/link man. He too can drop in to the pockets like Maddison will do, but also join the attack when we get the ball in wide areas and if we have the likes of Saka and Smith Rowe coming from outside to in and are mobile all game, then we might get some joy.
If you’re going to try to take some joy from Leicester’s team it is that there will be no Ndidi, who is still out with a hamstring, plus they are waiting on the fitness of Ricardo. Rodgers was coy about it and said “we’ll see” which to me means he will absolutely start because that’s what managers tend to do. They tend to say definitively ‘no’ even if it’s a ‘maybe’ so when they’re telling you ‘we’ll see’ it usually means the player starts. So he’ll probably play on the right with Bertrand or Castagne on the left. They will be the players who will try to do what Brighton did and get at our full backs and that’s why I think if Tierney isn’t going to play, it will be Tavares’ toughest game by miles today.
I watched the United game and whilst United were poor, I thought Leicester took their chances by leaving their two strikers high and isolating against United’s centre halves. What’s interesting is that in Ricardo on the right they have a player who basically does what Tierney/Tavares do on the left i.e. push up higher, meaning Leicester’s back three move to a four with Castagne dropping in and Amartey covering Ricardo’s space. So if by some miracle Rodgers is telling the truth, it will be interesting to see who plays wide right and whether they can do the same effective job.
We need our big players to step up today. We need to see Saka, Smith Rowe and probably Lacazette all showing movement because they may well get space in transition if we can move the ball quicker.
As I said at the top of the blog today I’d take a draw. We’re on a winning run here and we want it to continue, but today feels like it might be similar to Brighton i.e. get out of town with at least something. Of course I’m hoping for a win as that would be massive, but a draw would do me fine.
Not long to wait as it’s a 12.30pm kick off, so I’ll catch you all tomorrow with some post match musings.