Liverpool head to the King Power stadium on Monday night fresh from a two-week break. Their last match was a 2-0 success over Tottenham Hotspur in which Jurgen Klopp’s men reminded the rest of the league just how ruthlessly effective they can be.
A trip to 17th-placed Leicester City is, on paper, the ideal fixture to record their second consecutive win for the first time since December. Fans will fondly remember their side beating both Stoke City and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the space of four days. It’s a chance to build some momentum, keep pace with their top four rivals and keep those slim title hopes alive.
The Reds have the joint-best attack in the league whereas Leicester have the fifth-worst defence. The Liverpool backline isn’t impenetrable, conceding on average 1.2 goals per game, but the Foxes are far from being a free-scoring side. They are averaging just 0.96 goals per 90 minutes in the league so far this season. Lack of goals is one of the main reasons they’re in their current predicament.
The defeat to Sevilla in the Champions League means they’ve lost seven of their last 10 matches. One of those was a loss to ten-man Millwall, a side currently plying their trade in League One, in the FA Cup. They have recorded just two victories during this sequence and one of those was an extra-time win over Championship side Derby County.
Leicester managed to find the back of the net eight times in those matches but for added context, five of them were scored in the two matches against Derby.
This should be a guaranteed three points for Klopp’s men. But nothing is guaranteed in football and, as Liverpool fans have found out so often, form really counts for very little.
Complacency is and has been an issue for Liverpool for quite some time now.
So far this season they’ve dropped points against Burnley, West Ham United, Southampton, Bournemouth, Sunderland, Swansea City and Hull City. All of those clubs are mid-table or below and four of them make up the bottom seven in the league. Of the 30 points on offer from the games played against these seven sides the Reds have taken just 12.
However, more worrying is just how many goals the Merseyside-based outfit have conceded against these ‘inferior’ clubs. In these 10 games their backline has been breached on 18 occasions; conceding 1.8 goals per game to sides who are low scorers in general.
The Ranieri Sacking
— Leicester City (@LCFC) February 23, 2017
Time to discuss the elephant in the room: Claudio Ranieri’s dismissal as Leicester City manager.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Liverpool. People talk about the ‘new manager bounce’ but more often than not the bounce comes from no longer working under a manager the players had lost confidence in. A new man arrives with fresh ideas and this combination is like an adrenaline shot for the team a lot of the time.
Swansea showcased this in their historic 3-2 victory at Anfield in January. They looked destined to be playing in the Championship next season under Bob Bradley but the arrival of Paul Clement has seen them climb the table, and it started with the win against Liverpool.
It wasn’t a one-off either. The very same thing happened with Hull City. Marco Silva arrived and the Tigers finally found their roar. They stopped conceding at an alarming rate and confidently dispensed with Liverpool at the KCOM stadium.
Will it be third time lucky for Klopp? The scenarios aren’t identical, what with Leicester not being under new permanent management yet, but the German manager will once again find himself up against a resurgent group of players.
The current Premier League champions will be playing with a point to prove. Many of the media feel the Italian was harshly dismissed and the players are to blame, so it’s up to them to prove the opposite. Senior players in the squad had been unhappy with the management, as reported by the Guardian. Now they are free of the former Chelsea manager it’s time for them to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
Jamie Vardy to have another party at the expense of Liverpool?
Different season and different circumstances, but Jamie Vardy still has the ability to do that to teams. He’s not reached the heights of last term, no one in the Leicester team has, but there is still that threat there that would be foolish to ignore.
Vardy finished off a good team move to score an all important away goal against Sevilla. It was a glimpse of what the Foxes can do when they are in the swing of things. Vardy’s pace, Islam Slimani’s physical presence, Danny Drinkwater’s ability on the ball, Riyad Mahrez’s creativity and Liverpool's summer transfer target Demarai Gray’s unpredictability: these are all things that could cause problems for the away side on Monday.
Can Klopp's men break the habit which has haunted them all season and put in a big performance when they are expected to?