The Saints will have to produce something special to break down the Foxes
Leicester v Southampton, Sunday 1.30pm, Sky Sports 1
Earlier this season Leicester’s free-flowing, gung-ho football entertained the masses. Claudio Ranieri’s men treated us to an opening day 4-2 demolition of Sunderland, before following it up with 3-2 wins against Aston Villa, West Brom and Everton. Before Christmas, 13 of Leicester’s 17 games featured over 2.5 goals, and both teams found the net in 82 per cent of them.
The Foxes displayed as much delightful attacking football as they did defensive inability. While a fluid attacking line served up delicious moves cutting opponents to shreds, Leicester’s defensive were close behind to fall over their own feet and provide a grandstand finish.
It was as joyfully gleeful as it was painfully abysmal. And Leicester kept winning.
A lot has changed since late December. The goals have dried up. But Leicester have also tightened the belt at the back. The Foxes have become less generous and more cunning. And they’re threatening to win the league.
In their 18 games before December 29 Claudio Ranieri’s men scored a whopping 37 goals – an average of more than two per game. At the same time however, they shipped 25 and Kasper Schmeichel kept just three clean sheets. In those first 18 games there was a league high average of 3.4 goals per game that Leicester were involved in. That’s certainly one way to make sure you’re on early on Match of the Day.
Since December 29 however there has been an altogether different approach. In 13 games since Leicester have score just 17 goals. In the same time Sunderland have managed the same number of goals in one less game.
Whether through a dip in form or opponents working him out, Jamie Vardy has scored just four goals since December 29. Riyad Mahrez has just three.
Luckily the Foxes’ defence is picking up the slack.
In those 13 games were Leicester have averaged just 1.31 goals a game, they have kept nine clean sheets and conceded just six. No team has conceded fewer since the end of December. Their only defeat since December 29 was the 2-1 loss at the Emirates Stadium where Danny Welbeck scored a last-gasp winner for Arsenal, and the Foxes are actually picking up more points per game on average than they were when they were the free-scoring early season side.
While Ranieri may not have tinkered his team much, it seems clear he has tinkered his tactical approach. As defences sit deeper and try to cut out Leicester’s devastating counter-attacks, the Foxes are relying on individual moments of magic and a strong back-line to pick up the victories. So far so very, very good.
Since the turn of the year Leicester have won seven of their 12 games to nil, and they can add another one to that tally at home to Southampton on Sunday afternoon. It’s that Leicester will pick up all three points at the King Power Stadium but a much more tempting that the Foxes will win to nil.
Four of Leicester’s last five matches have finished 1-0 to Ranieri’s men and it might be tempting to have another punt on the 1-0 scoreline at odds of .