Liverpool v Leicester City: Key Battles
After the international break, the Reds are back in action in the Premier League. And what better way to do that, than to welcome the champions to the new Anfield. Nine thousand more fans that will back the Reds and a majestic looking Main Stand will greet Leicester City as they arrive at one of only two away grounds where they lost last season.
For the Reds, they go into the game on the back of having four points from three games, something Jurgen Klopp described as “not good, but not so bad either”. With a daunting trip to Chelsea on the horizon, it is imperative that Liverpool get the three points from their first home game of the season.
Here’s a look at some individual battles that will have a bearing on the final outcome.
James Milner v Riyad Mahrez
The PFA Player of the Year has had a rather quiet start to this season, like Leicester themselves. But as he showed so often last year, when he is in full flight, he is a delight to watch for the neutral and a nightmare for the opposition. For Liverpool, James Milner is likely to keep his place at left-back after an impressive showing at Spurs where he did well to blunt the threat of Erik Lamela for the most part of the game. Again, Mahrez will be tasked with a lot of Leicester’s creative burden and Milner will be the man to fill in at left-back following Klopp’s vote of confidence in him by not diving into the transfer market for a new left-back. It will be a fascination battle, and Milner will have to ensure he doesn’t switch off like he did once or twice at Spurs, especially in the build-up to their goal.
Sadio Mane v Christian Fuchs
Mane has been undoubtedly Liverpool’s brightest player this season. His pace provides us with the thrust that we so missed in some home games last season, especially against the teams that sat deep and showed no inclination to go forward. Leicester will sit deep too, although their transition to attack will be much quicker. But given that they sit deep, the timing of Mane’s runs will be crucial. With the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino there, we have got players who can play the passes; it is just crucial that Mane is patient with his runs. With his pace, he can give Fuchs a two-three yard headstart and beat him. However, the Austrian is an experienced pro and he will be looking to use all of his wisdom to quell the threat of Liverpool’s no. 19.
Jordan Henderson v Danny Drinkwater
The Reds’ captain has blown hot and cold this season. He put in a very good performance against Spurs, played reasonably well against Arsenal and in between that flattered to deceive against both Burnley and Burton. He played decently for England in the break and being in the starting eleven must have given a huge boost to his confidence. With Emre Can likely to miss out again, Henderson will have to once again be the main man in the middle of the park, especially with Gini Wijnaldum still settling into his new surroundings. For Leicester, Drinkwater is undoubtedly the main midfield player. His range of passing is what gives Leicester the ability to break as effectively as they do. It will be important for Henderson to stifle the room that Drinkwater gets and not let the Leicester man dictate play.
Joel Matip v Jamie Vardy
Matip had an excellent bow in the Premier League last time as he frustrated both Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen. However this week, the threat posed to him will be very different. If it was Kane’s guile and Janssen’s physicality against Spurs, it will be the raw pace of Vardy and maybe Ahmed Musa too this time. The Cameroonian showed that he could read the game well and made a few vital interceptions against Spurs. Vardy got back in the goal-scoring groove in Leicester’s win over Swansea last time and he will no doubt look to keep that going. For Liverpool, Matip’s ability with the ball at his feet will also be important given that Leicester will sit deep and allow us to have the ball before looking for the quick break.