Liverpool host Leicester City in their first home game of the 2016-17 season on Saturday evening, as the newly renovated Main Stand makes it’s first appearance to the nation.
There’ll be 54,000 packed inside Anfield in what’s expected to be a full house, the Reds entertaining the champions in front of the biggest home crowd Liverpool have seen in over 40 years.
Having just had the first (dreaded) international break, we’re now well into the season, having already played three Premier League games. Liverpool, playing away each time, have picked up four points thus far. Arguably, they could have had seven, or one – depending on how you see things.
It all kicked off with a 4-3 victory against Arsenal on the opening weekend, a game capped by brilliant performances from the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane. However, things took a turn for the worst a week after, the Reds slumping to a 2-0 defeat away at Burnley. With morale having been lifted by a midweek win over Burton Albion in the Capital One Cup, Jürgen Klopp’s side went into the international break off the back of a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur, a result that left them disappointed having dominated throughout.
And how about Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes, the current champions of English football? That does still seem a little odd to say. Well, they took are on four points after a mixed start to the season, unbeaten in two after an opening day loss to high-flyers Hull City.
They took their first point at home to Arsenal in a 0-0 draw, before some magical work from Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy helped them to a goal of the month contender in the 2-1 win at home to Swansea City last time out.
Those results leave Leicester in ninth, two places above Liverpool based on goal difference. The highest that either team can climb this weekend is up to fourth.
The international break is hated by many Liverpool fans, often lethargic towards the likes of England, but mostly due to the constant stream of injuries that seem to crop up. The curse hit again this time, Ragnar Klavan aggravating a previous knee injury whilst away with Estonia.
Adding to that, Emre Can is still struggling with an ankle injury that kept him out of action for Germany, meaning that he’s unlikely to start his first Premier League game of the season. That could see the trio of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana line up in midfield, however that would leave Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Daniel Sturridge battling for three places. Coutinho has travelled the furthest, going to South America for international duty with Brazil, which could put him at a disadvantage.
Further back, James Milner looks set to continue at left-back ahead of Alberto Moreno, with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren forming the centre-back partnership after a competent enough performance at Spurs. Loris Karius is back in training after a broken hand, but Simon Mignolet will carry on for now at least. Joe Gomez and Sheyi Ojo remain sidelined.
Kasper Schmeichel has undergone hernia surgery recently so it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be fit enough for the Foxes, whilst Jeff Schlupp and Nampalys Mendy are the only other doubts in a fairly fit squad. Ranieri ould be tempted to throw club record signing Islam Slimani in for his competitive debut, having signed the forward on Deadline Day.
Liverpool predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Mane, Firmino; Sturridge.
Leicester predicted XI (4-4-2): Zieler; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Mendy, Albrighton; Slimani, Vardy.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Jamie Vardy gave Leicester’s title challenge a further boost when these two met at the start of February last season, scoring one of the goals of the season in a 2-0 win for the hosts on a wet Tuesday evening at the King Power Stadium. Vardy bagged both goals, but it’s his first that was most memorable, slamming a 25-yard-volley over Mignolet’s head in the pouring rain.
However, things were different the last time they played at Anfield. Only two teams beat Leicester in the league last season, Arsenal did it twice, Liverpool the other. On Boxing Day, Christian Benteke steered in from Firmino’s cut-back to score the only goal of the game, leaving Leicester just two points clear at the top at the time – a shadow of the 10 point margin they’d finish the season with.
- Liverpool have made around 500 more passes in the league than Leicester so far, but conceded three more goals.
- Leicester haven’t won at Anfield for 16 years.
- Liverpool won the league the last time they hosted a 50,000+ crowd at Anfield, in 1976-77.
- By kick-off, 641 days will have gone by since work began to add 8,500 seats, taking Anfield up to the fifth biggest Premier League ground.
Match: Liverpool vs Leicester City
Date: Saturday 10th September
Time: 17:30 BST
Referee: Craig Pawson
PREDICTION: Liverpool 3-1 Leicester City
After getting my first prediction right by calling the 1-1 draw with Spurs, I’m adding a little comment to the bottom of each. Still yet to predict a loss, I’m thinking that we’ll see a few goals – but no clean sheet – in a convincing win back at Anfield this week. If Daniel Sturridge starts, expect him to prove the doubters wrong with a brace.