Liverpool return to Premier League action tonight as they host Leicester City at Anfield in what has become a crucial game in the Reds’ title challenge.
After Manchester City fell to an unexpected 2-1 defeat at the hands of Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle side, Jürgen Klopp’s men now have the chance to restore their seven point advantage over City should they claim all three points against Leicester.
All indications show that Liverpool are, as expected, favourites on paper going into the game – especially considering their incredible home record. The Reds are unbeaten at fortress Anfield since April 2017 when they lost to Crystal Palace.
Although Palace once again threatened that record last week, Liverpool came through with real character to secure a 4-3 victory, ensuring their only loss in the league to date this season is against City.
Leicester, on the other hand, remain inconsistent at best under Claude Puel. The Foxes have lost three of their last five in the league and sit tenth in the table. Grumbles continue to grow louder from the fan base about the future of Puel as manager, but the Frenchman remains at the helm at the King Power.
Leicester have also lost five of their away games this season so far, but did pick up three points at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season and when the two sides met in the East Midlands, the Foxes pushed Liverpool hard and made them work for their 1-2 victory.
On current form, however, Liverpool will be looking to make this another pragmatic victory and keep their bid for the Premier League title on track and punish Manchester City for their poor result at St James’ Park last night.
Liverpool are still in the midst of what can only be described as an injury crisis at the back, with Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold both still out with a broken leg and knee ligament injuries respectively.
Fabinho deputised well at centre back alongside Virgil van Dijk in Liverpool’s last outing, but the big Dutchman remains a slight doubt ahead of the Leicester game due to illness – and Fabinho has also been struggling with a hamstring problem but is expected to be fit.
James Milner, who filled in at right back against Crystal Palace, will serve a one match suspension after picking up two yellows against the Eagles.
This will likely mean that Fabinho, if fit, will be brought in at right back where he plays for Brazil fairly regularly, with Joel Matip partnering van Dijk in the middle despite Dejan Lovren’s return to fitness, with Andy Robertson playing on the left.
Gini Wijnaldum is expected to return in the midfield and will likely start alongside captain Jordan Henderson. The third midfield space will be a toss-up between Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri, both of whom have struggled for form in the past few weeks. The front three, as ever, picks itself.
Harry Macguire returns for Leicester after a leg injury, with no further injury concerns for Claude Puel.
Predicted Liverpool XI: Alisson, Robertson, Matip, van Dijk, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Shaqiri, Mané, Salah, Firmino
Predicted Leicester XI: Schmeichel, Chilwell, Morgan, Maguire, Simpson, Mendy, Ndidi, Ricardo Pereira, Gray, Maddison, Vardy
- Fabinho vs Gray
Although the big Brazilian is not a right back by trade, he has played there on a number of occasions for his country, so he is no stranger to the position.
He will be put to the test by Gray, though, who is a fast, skilfull individual who poses a similar threat to Wilfried Zaha did against Palace last time out.
Hopefully, Fabinho’s familiarity with the position will see him fare better than James Milner did against Roy Hodgson’s men, though.
- Salah vs Maguire
Mohamed Salah is on fire once more this season and he is scoring at will at the moment. He comes up against Harry Maguire this time out and he did do a very good job on him at Anfield last season – until Salah turned the style up to 11 and ripped the Foxes’ defence in two.
Maguire will have to be on his toes all night to keep Salah quiet, but the Egyptian King’s pace and skill will hopefully see him get the better of ‘Slabhead’.
- Van Dijk vs Vardy
Arguably the most in-form defender in world football, there’s little that can ruffle Virgil’s feathers. He’s put forwards like Lukaku, Neymar and Insigne in his pocket already this season – but Vardy provides a different challenge.
The former England international is a wise old fox and knows all of the tricks in the book from his days in the lower leagues of English football – but he’s a seasoned top-flight pro who knows where the back of the net is.
Van Dijk will have to ensure he’s at his best, as well as being sure that the rest of his defence is well marshalled to keep Vardy at bay.