With their premature FA Cup exit facilitating a window of opportunity to instead flock to Dubai for a training camp, Liverpool return to action after a 10-day break to face Leicester in the latest chapter of their Premier League title challenge. That received an unexpected boost last night when Manchester City succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle, giving the Reds an ideal opportunity to re-establish the seven-point lead that they had on their nearest challengers at the start of January.
Liverpool’s current situation will be familiar to some at Leicester, who held their nerve from this position three years ago to claim the title, although the picture is very different for the Foxes these days. Claude Puel is a manager under intense pressure, especially after the last-gasp defeat to Wolves a few days ago and the FA Cup upset at the hands of Newport County, so can the Reds push the Frenchman further towards the exit door? As you will see from the statistics and analysis below, Leicester have it in them to pull down the pants of the Premier League’s leading lights.
Last six Premier League games
Liverpool: W5, D0, L1, F17, A6, Pts 15
Leicester: W3, D0, L3, F8, A8, Pts 9
Both teams can be reasonably pleased with their defensive records so far this season – Liverpool have the lowest concession rate in the league while only the top four have conceded fewer goals than Leicester. However, both have been leaking goals at a higher than average rate recently.
In 18 Premier League matches prior to Christmas, Liverpool had let in seven goals. In five games since then, they’ve shipped six, three of which came against Crystal Palace in their most recent outing. At least the Reds have been prolific at the other end of late, with four put past Palace and Newcastle, while Arsenal were hit for five on the final weekend of 2018.
Leicester conceded as many goals in the 4-3 reverse at Wolves last time out as they did in their previous five games combined and their recent form has a definite Jekyll and Hyde nature about it, with wins at Chelsea and against Manchester City preceded by home defeats to Cardiff and Southampton. That should make Liverpool wary of the Foxes’ reputation for downing the big boys, something that was evidenced emphatically in 2015/16 when they won the Premier League with opening day odds of 5,000/1.
Premier League head-to-head record
Liverpool have won just over half of the teams’ Premier League clashes, including each of the last three, with two of those coming at the King Power Stadium. The Reds have won the last three Anfield clashes between this duo, with Leicester last claiming a result at the venue on New Year’s Day 2015, when they came from 2-0 down to rescue a point.
The Foxes only lost three games en route to winning the Premier League three seasons ago and one of those came at Anfield, when Christian Benteke’s goal was enough to give Liverpool all three points on Boxing Day.
Leicester haven’t won at Anfield since May 2000, when a surprise 2-0 victory proved instrumental in denying Liverpool what had seemed a nailed-on finish in the Champions League places, only for a rotten final five games to allow Leeds to overtake them on the run-in.
Last Anfield meeting
Liverpool 2-1 Leicester, 30 December 2017
I remember this one well, having seen it from near the top of the Main Stand at Anfield during a New Year’s Eve trip from Ireland. It certainly didn’t begin in the most auspicious circumstances for Liverpool, with a slack pass from Joel Matip gifting Jamie Vardy a goal for the visitors inside the first three minutes. The Reds were rattled sufficiently to trail 0-1 at half-time, with the home faithful exasperated at Kasper Schmeichel’s lack of hurry in taking goal kicks.
However, as was the case on numerous occasions last season, Mohamed Salah proved to be Liverpool’s knight in shining armour. He restored parity early in the second half and, on 76 minutes, an excellent solo finish completed the turnaround and ensured that the Reds would enjoy a winning end to 2017.
Liverpool 2018/19 vs Leicester 2015/16
Leicester had a three-point lead over Manchester City at this juncture in 2016, with Arsenal and Tottenham also in close pursuit. Liverpool’s lead against Pep Guardiola’s men is one point greater, with third-placed Tottenham a further eight points back. While the respective leaders’ nearest challengers weren’t far behind, the Reds only seem to have Manchester City to worry about at the moment, while the Foxes were being chased down by a pack of three clubs.
There is a discernible difference in the number of points that Leicester had and Liverpool now have after 23 games. The tally of 47 points and a +16 goal difference with which Leicester topped the table at this stage in 2016 would hypothetically be only good enough for fifth in the current Premier League standings. Liverpool have 13 more points on board (60 to 47), scored 12 more goals (54 to 42) and conceded only half of Leicester’s tally (13 to 26). The Foxes made the most of a comparatively weak chasing pack in 2015/16, a luxury that Liverpool most certainly don’t have this time around.
What, though, of Leicester’s final 15 matches from their title-winning season? They won 10, drew four and lost only one, with that defeat coming in mid-February. If Liverpool were to replicate that record from their next 15 league matches, they would end the season with 29 wins, seven draws and two defeats, giving them 94 points. In 26 years of the Premier League, only two teams have surpassed that total – Chelsea in 2005/06 and, slightly ominously, Manchester City last season.