Leicester vs Liverpool
| Thursday, December 26th |
Premier League | King Power Stadium
8PM BST / 3PM EST
They may have had to cover 7000 odd miles of air travel to get here, but for the first time in a month, Liverpool have had four full days off between matches. In that four-week stretch, the Reds have won nine and drawn one, and been crowned Champions of the World, not a bad couple fortnights, all told.
Awaiting them, are, thankfully, a softball matchup with... oh, it’s second placed Leicester City. The Foxes host Liverpool coming of a drubbing at the hands of Manchester City, and while Brendan Rodgers’ men had been talked up as potential title challengers in recent weeks, a draw and a loss in the last two have put them ten points back of the league leaders, with the Reds holding a game in hand, and a loss tomorrow would see them effectively eliminated as a realistic threat.
That loss is no certainty, though, and despite performing over their underlying numbers to what seems an unsustainable degree, the East Midlanders are comfortably a Champions League level side a this point. Jamie Vardy remains a threat, Kelechi Iheanacho has been electric in recent weeks, and James Maddison and Youri Tielemans are pulling the stings expertly from midfield.
Reds fans will however take solace in the fact that the Foxes’ stellar stats have fallen apart dramatically in their two meetings with the top clubs this season: averaging an expected goal difference of 1.79 - 0.88 against the rest of the league, Leicester’s corresponding numbers against Manchester City and Liverpool were 0.55 - 3.67.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keïta; Mané, Firmino, Salah
The backline picks itself for Jürgen Klopp this week, as Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip continue to miss out through injury. Incidentally, the Reds have conceded just a single goal since Joe Gomez was reinstated next to Virgil van Dijk five games ago, and if the pair can rediscover their stellar form from the start of last season, neither the Croatian nor the Cameroonian will be missed in the immediate future.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is set for another spell on the sidelines following his ankle injury, while Georginio Wijnaldum should be back in contention after sitting out the Club World Cup final with a knock. Jordan Henderson should retain his spot in the six, while Naby Keïta is likely to continue building on his run of form. Just make sure he’s protected from Hamza Choudhury’s studs at all costs.
Top scorers Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah — both sitting on 13 goals — took a back seat to Roberto Firmino in Qatar, with the Brazilian scoring match winners in both the semi-final and final of the tournament, but all three will line up at the King Power on Saturday.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “We are not in this situation we are in because we thought things are over before they are over, we are not in the situation we are in because we didn’t take each game we played so far 100 per cent serious. The boys were always 100 per cent focused and that’s what we will be at Leicester.”
Brendan Rodgers: “Liverpool next is another great measure for us and great test. Congratulations to them, they will come back on a real high. But we are playing at home so the intensity of the crowd can help us as well.”
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Craig Pawson
VAR: Paul Tierney, Stephen Child
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.