Key Battles: Leicester City VS Liverpool FC

Jack Hallows looks ahead to Liverpool’s visit to the King Power Stadium Saturday lunch-time and where the key battles will be fought on the pitch. 

Regardless of where you sit on the table, Leicester away is a tough fixture.

The Foxes haven’t been able to quite light a fire in recent seasons in the same manner they did in the 2015/16 season when they won the Premier League but realistically, who expected them too?

That incredible run to winning the title was one of football’s biggest miracles with players outperforming the levels they should’ve been at week-in, week-out.

There were a couple of genuine world-beaters in the squad with Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté in particular pushing on to prove their status as top quality talents since, while Jamie Vardy has continued his reputation as a fiery, goal-scoring pest for opposition defenders.

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However, when you compare the Leicester side likely to take the field and host Liverpool Saturday lunchtime, it’s a vastly different opposition than the one that pulled off that great feat back in 2016.

Claude Puel is the current manager and the likes of Mahrez, Kanté and Robert Huth have all moved on to pastures new as the club turns one eye to the future.

There are still talents all over the pitch, with Kelechi Iheanacho still touted for a bright future, James Maddison looking a real find, Harry Maguire one of the league’s most sought after centre halves and Demarai Gray beginning to really find his feet for the Foxes.

So, with that in mind, what little battles can we expect to feature prominently this time around?

Mohamed Salah VS The Leicester defence

“Mohamed Salah VS the entire Leicester defence is going to be a real key battle this weekend,” probably sounds like a piece of punditry so vague that even Michael Owen might consider it obvious.

However, I say this for good reason.

Salah was incredible against Leicester last season both home and away, scoring a header in the 3-2 victory at the King Power and showing remarkable movement, strength and skill during his brace at Anfield around Christmas.

Leicester possess a number of talented central defenders with Harry Maguire likely to be partnered by one of bargain buy Jonny Evans or Wes Morgan.

All three possess solid in-game intelligence and are willing to literally throw their bodies on the line to prevent goals. Their ability to marshall a defence – especially in the case of Morgan – will also be key to trying to stop Liverpool’s tricky attacking trio.

The issue for Leicester however, is that none are particularly quick across the ground and when the ball is played in behind, they lack the pace to catch up with pacy forwards.

Salah had a lot of joy against Leicester last time not just because of his impressive sprint speed but the speed with which he changes direction and turns his marker.

If Puel’s men are going to successfully shut Liverpool’s attack down – a feat far easier said than done – then Chilwell and Pereira are going to have to be at the ready to back up their centre halves and track the diagonal runs of Salah and Mané.

The Egyptian King hasn’t started this season in particularly great form – despite still managing to hit the back of the net twice – but what better way to re-discover his destructive best than a fixture against an opponent that he seems to love putting goals past?

Kelechi Iheanacho VS Joe Gomez

With Jamie Vardy still serving his three game suspension for a red card picked up on match day 2, it’s likely that Nigerian starlet Kelechi Iheanacho will be afforded another start for the Foxes.

Iheanacho hasn’t exactly set the world alight for Leicester, scoring just three times in the Premier League since his move from Manchester City in the summer of 2017 but the chance to get at a fellow young talent in Joe Gomez might just see the forward up his game to another level.

It’s worth remembering that while the former Man City striker hasn’t exploded into action for Leicester just yet, he’s spent much of his time playing understudy to Jamie Vardy and before him, Sergio Aguero.

There aren’t many better Premier league strikers that he could have spent the last two years learning from.

He’s going to have to be on his game however, with Gomez and Virgil van Dijk the in-form centre back pairing in Premier League football at the moment.

The Reds are yet to concede a goal this season, with Gomez and ‘VVD’ playing a huge part in that – Gomez in particular having just gotten better and better with each outing.

Naby Keïta VS Wilfred N’Didi 

Finally, I’m looking forward to seeing who comes out on top when Wilfred N’Didi meets Naby Keïta in midfield.

Keïta has been a real breath of fresh air in the middle of the park for Liverpool so far, getting stuck into tackles while also displaying flair and an incredible ability to drive the ball forward at pace.

While they’re not particularly similar players – N’Didi seems to be naturally far more defensive than Keïta – both are dynamic and have impressive engines, meaning that N’Didi is likely to be the one tasked with shutting Liverpool’s little Guinean down.

The Leicester midfielder is clearly talented and while he didn’t manage to secure a move to one of the Premier League’s traditionally top clubs, he was linked heavily with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City over the summer.

If Keïta can win the midfield battle over the Nigerian, then Liverpool’s forwards will be able to find a lot more space to exploit in behind and the goals will likely come as a result.

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