Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 4/6
Leicester City and Liverpool are set to meet for the second time in less than a week when they face each other at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday in the Premier League. Last Wednesday, a heavily rotated Liverpool team came back from 0-2 and 1-3 to win on penalties and knock Leicester out in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup.
With the current COVID-19 situation in English football in mind, it should be said that no match is certain to take place until a couple of hours before kickoff.
The Foxes enter this clash on the back of not only the cup loss to this particular opponent, but also a difficult defeat to Manchester City on Sunday, which saw them do their best but fail to come back from 4-0 down at halftime. Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling all struck within the first 45 minutes. Between minutes 55 and 65, Leicester came very close as James Maddison, Ademola Lookman and Kelechi Iheanacho brought it back to 4-3, but Aymeric Laporte and Sterling again made sure the match ended 6-3.
Before those two games, Brendan Rodgers’ team drew 2-2 away to Southampton, lost 2-1 away to Aston Villa, lost 3-2 in the last match of the Europa League group stages away to Napoli, and thrashed Newcastle 4-0 at home.
At the moment, Leicester are in 10th place with 22 points, six off a spot that warrants a place in the Europa League again, with Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Brighton and Hove Albion set between them and West Ham in sixth.
Again, with the COVID-19 situation in mind, it’s hard to foresee which players will still be available come kickoff time.
103 new positive cases from 15,186 COVID-19 tests administered on @premierleague players and club staff 20-26 Dec.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) December 27, 2021
However, the notorious virus has nothing to do with the absence of fullback Ricardo Pereira, who suffered a broken leg following a severe tackle by Liverpool youngster Tyler Morton last week. The same goes for centre-backs Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana, and fullback James Justin. Centre-back Caglar Soyuncu and striker Patson Daka could be involved but they remain doubts due to thigh problems. Winger Harvey Barnes and left-back Ryan Bertrand are also injured at the moment.
Midfielder Daniel Amartey is expected to step into the back line again, alongside Jannik Vestergaard. Wilfred Ndidi and Boubakary Soumare are likely to be named in the middle of the park, with Jamie Vardy leading the line upfront, and Maddison or Ayoze Perez in support.
It’s back to business for Liverpool, who saw their Sunday match against Leeds United on Sunday canceled due to a request made by Leeds. They are now six points behind leaders Manchester City in the Premier League table, albeit with a game in hand on the defending champions. Like Liverpool in second, Chelsea in third place also have 41 to their name.
Liverpool’s last six matches saw them beat Wolves away by 0-1, AC Milan in the Champions League away by 1-2, Aston Villa at home by 1-0, Newcastle United at home by 3-1, draw 2-2 away to Tottenham Hotspur, and eventually knock Leicester out of the Carabao Cup on penalties, after the match finished 3-3.
Manager Jurgen Klopp recently spoke about the madness of scheduling Premier League matches this close to one another, but it seems on this occasion it has served his team well – they got some rest over the weekend, while Leicester played Manchester City on Sunday.
Klopp confirmed in his pre-match presser that centre-back Virgil van Dijk, and midfielders Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones, are all back in contention following COVID-related absences. The players still missing are midfielder Harvey Elliott (ankle), centre-back Nathaniel Phillips (broken cheekbone), and left-back Andy Robertson who is suspended following a red card he received against Spurs.
Van Dijk and Joel Matip are likely to command the back line, with Kostas Tsimikas set to come into the side instead of Robertson. Fabinho should also start, along with captain Jordan Henderson and Thiago. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will likely be flanking Diogo Jota, with the Portuguese currently just ahead of Roberto Firmino in the pecking order.
Liverpool are the absolute favourites to win this contest, for several reasons. Leicester’s situation with the absent players is arguably worse than theirs, and the Foxes did, after all, play a difficult match which started about 50 hours before this one. That is not nearly enough time for them to recharge their batteries.
Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 4/6
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