Liverpool visit Leicester in a vital top-of-the-table Premier League clash on Boxing Day, with Foxes supporters in understandably confident spirits.
The Reds return to England as the new champions of the world, following their Club World Cup triumph in Qatar over the weekend.
Rather than celebrate the achievement, however, Jurgen Klopp‘s men have one of their biggest games of the season to focus on.
Liverpool head to second-placed Leicester knowing this will be a huge challenge, with former Reds boss Brendan Rodgers thriving at the King Power and looking to narrow his side’s 10-point deficit.
Ahead of the much-anticipated game, we spoke to Rob Hayes from the For Fox Sake Podcast (@FFSPod) to get his views on Leicester, Liverpool and the Boxing Day meeting.
Leicester are second in the Premier League – how delighted are you with the season so far?
I am extremely happy with the performances we have put in and the points we have accrued in the first half of the season.
Even the most optimistic Leicester fan wouldn’t have predicted such a strong start to the campaign, but we are there on merit thanks to a strong team spirit and some outstanding individual displays.
How popular is Brendan Rodgers? And where has he excelled most?
Brendan Rodgers is turning us into the team and the club that Leicester fans hoped was possible following our Premier League title win a few years ago.
He has got us playing attractive and effective football and he is therefore very popular in Leicester right now.
He seems to have the ideal balance of tactical awareness and man management, which the majority of the squad have responded really well to.
We have a young, energetic team so the high-pressing, hardworking style of play suits them perfectly.
Rodgers has put an arm around key players such as Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel and has got them completely on board with the approach, also giving confidence and freedom to our exciting young players such as James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.
Do you feel a Premier League title challenge is possible?
I don’t think so.
We are in a good position right now to secure European football come the end of the season and I think that is a terrific step in the right direction for us.
It is nice to be talked about in the title race conversations, but a top-four finish is the objective and the start we have made means that is a realistic possibility.
Saturday’s defeat to Man City highlighted the work that still needs to be done in order to compete at the very top—we all recognise that this squad is still a work in progress and we are all looking forward to seeing how much better they can get.
Which players have stood out most for the Foxes?
Vardy is top of the scoring charts and he rightly enjoys plenty of the headlines alongside Maddison’s creativity and flair.
They deserve plenty of praise and are essential to the success we’ve enjoyed so far, but I feel that our defensive strength has enabled lots of these excellent results to happen.
Rodgers and his coaching staff have done a lot of work with Wilfred Ndidi and he is no longer just a bulldozer in the middle of the park.
He is still right up there with his tackling and interceptions, but he has added an extra element of finesse to his play, with a wider range of passing and greater composure on the ball.
The whole of the back four and the goalkeeper have also been excellent.
This is Ben Chilwell’s best run of form in a City shirt, Ricardo Pereira has been outstanding and the partnership of the rock-steady Jonny Evans and rising star Caglar Soyuncu has been a joy to watch.
Remember, Soyuncu took the place of Harry Maguire at the heart of our defence and he cost around £65 million less!
How do you rate Liverpool’s start to the season? Strong title favourites?
I don’t think anyone could argue with that!
Liverpool have had a phenomenal half-season and they seem to be well on course for a first Premier League title.
I can’t see anybody catching them, but the festive period and reaction to the travelling involved in the Club World Cup will be a big test over the next couple of weeks.
If they come through that unscathed and with a few more points on the board I think they will be absolutely fine, regardless of the inevitable chase from City.
Who do you fear most for the Reds on Boxing Day?
The problem with this trio is that at least two of them are always in form and, frighteningly, it is usually all three.
They all have different yet equally dangerous strengths and I think it will be extremely difficult for us to keep a clean sheet on Boxing Day.
Where will the key battles take place?
We got overloaded in wide areas against City and I am hoping we will have learned a very quick lesson from that.
The movement of the front three means that our back four will need to be pretty compact.
Subsequently, I think whoever plays out wide for Leicester—Barnes and Ayoze Perez are the likely candidates—will have to work much harder to reduce this space.
If we win this battle, I think the centre of midfield will be a fascinating mini-game of three vs. three, the winner of which is likely to come out on the right side of the result.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
I expect to see an exciting, entertaining game with plenty of goals.
Liverpool are the favourites, but our home form has been excellent, so I will go for 2-2.