Liverpool welcome reigning Premier League champions Leicester City to Anfield on Saturday, as a new-look stadium awaits a potentially memorable clash.
Liverpool vs. Leicester City
Saturday, 10th September 2016, 5:30pm (BST)
Referee: Craig Pawson
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After two weeks of having to stew over how Liverpool didn’t secure victory at Tottenham Hotspur a fortnight ago, Premier League football is back this weekend.
If the two-week international break felt like it took forever to finish, it feels like an eternity since the Reds last played at Anfield.
It was the 1-1 draw with Chelsea on May 11, to be precise, with the completion of the new Main Stand seeing Jurgen Klopp‘s face consecutive away league games against Arsenal, Burnley and Spurs.
The atmosphere on Saturday promises to be spectacular, and with Leicester coming to town, it gives the game an extra spark.
The Foxes have made a solid but unspectacular start to the campaign, picking up four points from their three games, but they are a very dangerous team who have seemingly not lost their spark.
Claudio Ranieri has them exceptionally well-drilled, and their counter-attacking brilliance can be a joy to watch. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have stayed beyond the summer, which was paramount.
We all know what Leicester‘s game plan will be on Saturday, and the final outcome will largely be down to which Liverpool team turns up.
When they are in full flow, there is arguably not a more devastating attacking side in the league, but they can also fall apart with alarming ease.
Their unpredictable nature sums up the Premier League as a whole, and Saturday’s showdown should be very entertaining for the neutral.
- Last meeting at Anfield: Liverpool 1-0 Leicester: Benteke strike downs Premier League leaders
We spoke to Leicester fan Jamie Thorpe (@thorpie54) to get his thoughts on the game.
What do you make of Leicester‘s start to the season? Has the level dropped from last year, or is that a lazy assumption?
Whilst I wouldn’t say it was a lazy assumption I probably wouldn’t agree with it either. The opening day loss to Hull was the polar opposite to our performances last year. Bereft of ideas up front, panicked in defence and the result was a sucker-punch.
However, the sort of spirit that carried us through last season was more than evident against Arsenal. I may be looking at this through blue-tinted glasses but Leicester probably deserved to win the game on balance, as on multiple occasions we exhibited some incisive and exhilarating attacking play whilst remaining solid at the back and carried this through for the win against Swansea.
All in all a definite mixed bag, but much too early in the season to panic just yet.
What final league position would you be happy with in 2016/17? There seem to be plenty writing you off already.
Last season there was a constant sense that many pundits (and some fans) were eagerly waiting for the wheels to come off, seemingly queuing up to say “I told you so.” The loss to Hull brought a lot of them out the woodwork—many even linking us with relegation.
Obviously I was disappointed with the result but that is reactionary in the extreme, and I am sticking to my pre-season call of top eight.
N’Golo Kante leaving is a blow, but we have recruited well (Ahmed Musa is particularly exciting) and more importantly signed a vast majority of the squad to long-term deals.
Kante was crucial, but there is more than enough quality in our team to be realistically aiming to challenge for European places.
Which Liverpool players are you most fearful of on Saturday, and what is your prediction?
Klopp has a truly enviable attacking array to choose from: Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana are all players capable of turning a game on its head, however the man to watch for me will be Sadio Mane.
It hasn’t taken him long to slot into your setup, and when he is full flow he will scare the life out of defences.
It is probably fair to say that both sides possess greater attacking assets than defensive and there could be a few goals in this one.
Vardy, Mahrez and Musa vs. Mane, Firmino and Coutinho—it should be an entertaining game for the neutral, at least. 2-2.
Classic Match: Leicester 1-4 Liverpool- October 20, 2001
The two sides met at Filbert Street back in 2001/02, in what would be a memorable occasion for Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler.
The striker pounced from close range to give the Reds an early lead, before Sami Hyypia’s header doubled Gerard Houllier’s side’s lead after just 10 minutes.
Another clinical Fowler finish made it 3-0 shortly before half-time, and although Dennis Wise pulled a goal back for the hosts before the hour mark, it made little difference.
Fowler completed his hat-trick in stunning fashion, volleying home superbly with his weaker right foot in the dying seconds.
It would be the last goal ‘God’ scored in his first spell at Anfield, before moving to Leeds United a month later.
The international break is always a nightmare for club managers, as they watch matches terrified at the thought of their players getting injured.
Fortunately for Klopp, his Liverpool squad has come it through it relatively unscathed.
Emre Can is out with a foot injury, however, while Ragnar Klavan also misses out with a knee problem and Sheyi Ojo is still sidelined with a back issue.
Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are expected to be the first-choice pairing at centre-back, although Mamadou Sakho has been training with the first team this week, despite his much-publicised behavioural issues.
Sadio Mane is fit, after tenuous rumours emerged that he had picked up an injury for Senegal last weekend, while Loris Karius has recovered from a broken hand.
Simon Mignolet is likely to retain his place in goal, though, with Karius still not quite ready to be thrown in at the deep end.
As was the case last season, Leicester have very few injury concerns.
There are no standout problems for any of the regulars, which is an absolute godsend for Claudio Ranieri, when it comes to finding a rhythm and consistency to his team.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Drew 1-1 vs. Tottenham
Won 5-0 vs. Burton
Lost 2-0 vs. Burnley
Won 4-3 vs. Arsenal
Lost 4-0 vs. Mainz
Leicester – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 2-0 vs. Swansea
Drew 0-0 vs. Arsenal
Lost 2-1 vs. Hull
Lost 4-2 vs. Barcelona
Lost 4-0 vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Klopp discussed the Sakho situation, admitting it may take time for the Frenchman to get back into the team:
“We have to make Mama fit now. In the transfer window you have to make decisions, and you have to prepare after the window closes.
“You have to tell the players the truth. The situation is like it is, you can’t change the situation any more. With Mama, and all of the players, I told him what I thought would be best.
“It’s now about making Mama fit—and he isn’t after this long time with the suspension and injury—then we will see what happens.
“I have no idea when. It depends who performs, our results, all that stuff. In the end, Mama knows, I know, and that’s enough. It’s not a problem. Who am I? You don’t have to gain my trust.
“He couldn’t play football for a long time, it makes sense after a long break to think about how to get match time—it’s difficult here.
“You have to speak about it before the window closes, and that’s what I did. I’m not silly enough to forget good performances, but in the end we will see what happens. That’s all there is to say.
“It’s normal now, the squad is clear, it’s all good and we have one more good centre-half. But, for him, it needs time, that’s how it is. I can’t change it, it’s your body.”
One To Watch: Riyad Mahrez
It may be a rather predictable choice, but Mahrez was the man who made Leicester tick last season, and he can be unplayable on his day.
The 25-year-old has an Arjen Robben-esque ability to cut inside onto his superb left foot, creating and scoring at will, and his unpredictable style is the perfect foil for the more functional players around him.
With James Milner again expected to start at left-back for Liverpool, Mahrez may fancy his chances of running the Englishman ragged.
Liverpool are 13/2 for the victory with Ladbrokes, with Leicester 9/2 and the draw priced at 3/1.
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Liverpool vs. Leicester City is live on BT Sport from 5pm (BST) with kickoff at 5:30pm. As ever, This is Anfield will have coverage throughout the evening.