Leicester v Liverpool, Thursday, 8pm
Boxing Day is a rare day in the Premier League, as there are nine fixtures taking place. Old school. This one is the best of the bunch, as it’s a top of the table clash where the leaders travel to their closest challengers. And not just in the ‘managers with the shiniest teeth’ table either, the actual league.
But did Leicester’s title hopes suffer a fatal blow on Saturday? I noted in my preview of Manchester City vs Leicester that the Foxes don’t have a strong record at the homes of the big six clubs, and so it proved as they went two goals down under Brendan Rodgers for the first time. They’re now out to 55/1 to win the league.
However, since they returned to the top flight in 2014, they’ve beaten all of the big boys at the King Power Stadium at least once. Their record against the Reds is two wins and three defeats from five matches, so can we rule out the draw at 13/5?
Perhaps. Only three teams have drawn fewer Premier League matches than Leicester this season, and one of them is Liverpool. But the previous meeting of these teams would’ve been a draw had it not been for a 95th-minute penalty.
The last five matches between the sides have seen one draw and four games settled by the odd goal. This is also a clash between two teams bearing the joint-best defensive record in the division, suggesting it’ll be close.
A lot will depend on how much extra time in the Club World Cup final took out of the Reds. With that in mind, and with Klopp happy enough to keep Leicester at arms-length in the league and move on to the next match, this could be a stalemate.
Matches between Leicester and Liverpool are accustomed to both teams scoring and there being plenty of chances taken. All seven league meetings since the start of 2016/17 have seen goals for both teams, and only one – the 1-1 draw at Anfield in January – saw fewer than three in total.
However, those matches include the aforementioned one with the late penalty, and last year’s meeting at the King Power only saw the home side score thanks to Alisson committing a hideous blunder. He might the best goalkeeper in the world, but signing for Liverpool guarantees a clanger or two.
I do think both teams will score – Liverpool haven’t failed to net in an away league match yet this season, and Leicester have scored in every game at home since a 0-0 with Wolves on the opening weekend – but they might be limited to a goal apiece.
Regular readers will know 1-1 is the most frequent scoreline in matches among the big six, and even if it’s only temporary for Leicester, they can be counted among the top teams this season. They drew 1-1 at Chelsea, and Liverpool’s only dropped points came in a 1-1 at Old Trafford.
Is it possible to make a case for any Leicester goal scorer other than Jamie Vardy? He’s the Premier League’s top scorer in 2019, after all. If in doubt, put your pennies on him at 11/10. He’s bagged seven against the Reds in his career, with Arsenal the only team he’s netted more against.
The Foxes have had some unusual scorers against Liverpool in recent times. Rachid Ghezzal scored the one Premier League goal of his career in the corresponding fixture in 2018/19, while Harry Maguire scored one of his three league goals last season at Anfield.
By doing so he denied Liverpool the league title, at least if you listen to Manchester United fans.
So if you fancy a change from Vardy, go for James Maddison. His five league goals this season include strikes against Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.
Liverpool have shared their 16 away league goals out among nine different players this season. The last five have all been scored by different Reds, with Mohamed Salah among the men who broke his road duck last time out at Bournemouth.
The Egyptian is the shortest-priced Liverpool man in the goalscorer market as usual, but Sadio Mané has had more clear-cut chances away from home, and has scored in the last three meetings with Leicester.