The Foxes host the Reds on Tuesday night as the Premier League puts on yet another much anticipated midweek set of fixtures, of which there are frankly far too few.
Leicester City sit atop the Premier League table in February with an impressive 3-point lead over Arsenal and Manchester City. Every football analyst has lauded them for their pluck (yes, I said pluck) and success, but all have openly or implicitly indicated that it will never last. They may be right, it might just last until May…but then they’ll be champions.
If Leicester City are to mount a serious title challenge, the next 3 league games over the next 12 days may tell us all we need to know. Following the match against Liverpool (one of only two Premier League teams to beat them this season), they face both of their title rivals in Manchester City (A) and Arsenal (A – the other team to beat them this season).
Claudio Ranieri will know that if they come through these games on top of the table they will have to be considered genuine title challengers.
Liverpool sit in 7th place in the league, 8 points outside the top four and a whopping 13 points behind their opponents on Tuesday night. However over the last 6 league games, Liverpool have accumulated a point more than Leicester City, and with the fixtures facing The Foxes in the coming weeks, a long overdue run of form for the Anfield outfit could see them retaining hopes of grabbing a Top 4 slot this season.
Privately Klopp must know that the odds of Spurs, Arsenal or Manchester City being caught are minimal, but should Leicester City lose the next 3 league games against supposedly ‘bigger’ opponents, that 13 point lead over Liverpool (who face Sunderland and Aston Villa next) could be down to just 4 points. Shrewd football observers will note that it’s the hope that kills you in the end, which is why January/February are such a dangerous time of year. It has sod all to do with the weather.
Claudio Ranieri has been nicknamed ‘The Tinker Man’ by the press, but it is Klopp who is likely to make at least 8 changes to the team who played in the FA Cup 4th Round. Mignolet and Lovren are the only starters from Saturday night likely to keep their place. Ranieri meanwhile has been able to rest his team after their 3rd round FA Cup exit to Spurs. New signing Daniel Amartey will not be ready for Tuesday, but De Laet and Okazaki have been passed fit. Only Schlupp and Matty James are on the missing list for Leicester. It’s fair to say that fatigue won’t be a major challenge for Leicester City. Expectation, on the other hand, looms large.