A downbeat Liverpool visit Leicester on Saturday lunchtime, in what represents a huge game in the Premier League top-four battle.
Leicester vs. Liverpool
Saturday, February 13, 2021 – 12.30pm (GMT)
King Power Stadium
Premier League (24)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
For the first time since August 2018, the title no longer feels like it’s any of the Reds’ business.
Call that pessimism in a season of twists and turns, but last Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to Man City at Anfield effectively ended their hopes of glory in May.
Liverpool look a jaded team who are battling a crisis in confidence and key injuries, with three years of relentless brilliance finally catching up with them.
However, Jurgen Klopp‘s men are still a formidable side when they click and they have a wonderful chance to silence the doubters this weekend.
The Reds face a Leicester team continuing to thrive under ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, with their current third-place position fully justified.
Blessed with an exciting group of young players, with elder statesmen such as Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy still top class, too, they will provide the champions with a huge test.
We have often seen Liverpool raise their game in the harder matches this season, though, when opponents also come to play football.
This could be the perfect fixture for an under-fire Reds outfit, and after the sad news broke about the passing of Klopp’s mother, it would be heartwarming if the players produced a big performance for him.
A win would see Liverpool leapfrog their hosts into third place.
There is every chance that we will see a Liverpool debut this weekend, with Ozan Kabak likely to start at the King Power.
The 20-year-old is a more established option than fellow new signing Ben Davies and many are tipping him to partner Jordan Henderson at centre-back, with Fabinho yet another injury casualty.
In terms of others absentees, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are all out for the season, while Naby Keita and Diogo Jota are also still missing.
Jota is still up to three weeks away from returning to full training, with his comeback date seemingly getting later by the week.
After nearly a week off, the hope is that Liverpool are well-rested, meaning the team should look similar to the one that lost to City.
Alisson will continue in goal, looking to make amends after his two huge lapses last time around, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson should be at full-back.
Thiago, Gini Wijnaldum and Curtis Jones could continue in midfield, but James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are in contention.
The front-three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are all fit, and despite their ongoing struggles as a unit, nobody else justifies a start ahead of them.
James Justin is expected to miss out for Leicester with a knee injury picked up in the FA Cup, having played every minute of league action this season.
Rodgers has no other key men out, though, allowing him to field a strong side.
Last 5 Away to Leicester (All Competitions)
Won 4-0 – December 2019 (Firmino x2, Milner pen, Alexander-Arnold)
Won 2-1 – September 2018 (Ghezzal; Mane, Firmino
Won 3-2 – September 2017 (Okazaki, Vardy; Salah, Coutinho, Henderson)
Lost 2-0 – September 2017 (Okazaki, Slimani)
Lost 3-1 – February 2017 (Vardy x2, Drinkwater; Coutinho)
King Power Stadium
Did You Know?
Despite much of the focus being on Firmino’s poor form this season, Mane is going through a noticeable dip of his own.
The Senegalese has scored just three league goals in 16 games since the 2-2 draw at Everton on October 17, highlighting his profligacy in the final third.
Mane’s overall tally of 10 goals in all competitions is far from eye-catching, with two of those coming against a team of Aston Villa youngsters in the FA Cup.
The 28-year-old has still been a threat at times, but he hasn’t been the same player who lit up the 2019/20 campaign.
Leicester – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 1-0 vs. Brighton
Drew 0-0 vs. Wolves
Won 2-0 vs. Fulham
Lost 3-1 vs. Leeds
Drew 1-1 vs. Everton
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 4-1 vs. Man City
Lost 1-0 vs. Brighton
Won 3-1 vs. West Ham
Won 3-1 vs. Tottenham
Lost 3-2 vs. Man United
Speaking to the media on Friday, Klopp picked out several Leicester players he respects ahead of the game:
“Albrighton looks like he doesn’t get older, Vardy the same.
“[Harvey] Barnes is probably one of the biggest talents, I’m not sure if he already is as much respected or appreciated as he should be. He’s an unbelievable player, and a proper Leicester product.
“Midfield, Tielemans, all these guys. It’s just a really good setup, and that’s what makes them so strong.”
TV & Liveblog Info
Leicester vs. Liverpool kicks off at 12.30pm (GMT) and will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport 1. Coverage gets underway at 11.30am.
Joanna Durkan is in charge of TIA’s matchday live blog, keeping you company from 11.45am and providing minute-by-minute updates.