Once again this season, Leicester are making an early case for themselves as dark horses in the Premier League title race. And once again this season, it might well be down to Liverpool to bring them crashing down to earth.
A 4-0 win at the King Power Stadium last term kickstarted a Foxes slump that ended with them narrowly missing out on the Premier League’s top four, so with Brendan Rodgers’ side currently sitting pretty at the top of the table, it would certainly be timely of the Reds to once again burst Leicester’s bubble.
While constant injuries and inconsistent performances have created a feeling of doom around Liverpool at the start of 2020/21, the reality is that they’re only one point off the top of the table themselves, which in turn shows how crucial Saturday’s Premier League clash between the two sides could prove to be.
But how close are Leicester to truly being worthy competitors of the reigning Premier League champions? Our combined XI will hopefully give us some indication…
Goalkeeper - Alisson
Kasper Schmeichel has been a fantastic servant to Leicester City and as a former Premier League champion, is undoubtedly up there with the better goalkeepers in the division right now.
Liverpool’s Alisson though, is quite simply a different level. While he’s as good as anybody when it comes to commanding the area and shot-stopping, his ability to play out from the back is rivalled by very few goalkeepers across Europe.
That package all adds up to making Alisson an incredibly calming presence whose composure seeps into those around him.
Right-Back - Trent Alexander-Arnold
With fewer interceptions and key passes per match than last season - not to mention the fact he’s just one assist into matching 2019/20’s total of 13 - there’s been a noticeable downturn in form from Trent Alexander-Arnold this term.
Also currently sidelined through injury, Leicester’s Timothy Castagne can rightly question why he hasn’t been included in our combined XI instead. As well as clocking up one goal and two assists, he’s been present for two Leicester clean sheets.
But let’s face facts. When Trent Alexander-Arnold’s at his best, he’s one of the top right-backs in the world and arguably the greatest set piece taker around. Our combined XI just can’t pass up that level of pedigree.
Right Centre-Back - Jonny Evans
Since leaving Manchester United in 2015, Jonny Evans steadily built up a reputation as one of the best defenders outside the Big Six, and the experienced he’s gained along the way has made him a natural leader too.
The manner in which Harry Maguire, Caglar Soyuncu and now Wesley Fofana have all flourished alongside him is evidence enough of his influence, while this season he’s helped the Foxes to consecutive clean sheets against Arsenal and Wolves - no simple feat.
Left Centre-Back - Virgil van Dijk
He may be out for the foreseeable future but Virgil van Dijk is still one of the best centre-backs in the world.
A combination of towering height, natural power and rare grace on the ball makes him a naturally authoritative figure and it still remains to be seen how exactly Liverpool can manage to fill his void.
Hopefully when he returns from injury, he’ll be able to pick up where he left off.
Left-Back - Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson will feel he could be doing more this season. He’s actually averaged under one tackle and one interception per game, although going forward a return of one goal and two assists is not to be sniffed at.
Nonetheless, when compared to the fact Leicester simply haven’t signed a direct replacement for Ben Chilwell, with right-footer James Justin filling in on the most-part this season, this spot in our combined XI was a pretty simple choice.
Right Defensive Midfield - Fabinho
Capable of playing in a number of different positions and executing each role incredibly well, Liverpool’s injury problems only make Fabinho even more of an asset to Jurgen Klopp.
We’ve stuck him in his best and most natural position just in front of the back four. From there, the Brazilian can break-up opposition attacks and build play from deep with his impressive mixture of physicality, positional awareness and progressive passing.
Those qualities have earned Fabinho a crucial role in our combined XI.
Left Defensive Midfield - Wilfred Ndidi
Liverpool aren’t the only side with injury problems this season. In fact, a number of key Leicester players have spent time on the sidelines, including Wilfried Ndidi.
Over the last few seasons though, the Nigerian has been one of the top play-breakers in the Premier League. He was second only to Aaron Wan-Bissaka for tackles last term while picking up just six bookings and also completed a solid 85% of his passes.
Aged just 23, Ndidi has a huge future ahead of him. Which is why, perhaps controversially, we’re favouring his inclusion over Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Reds midfielder Gini
Wijnaldum - two very solid and talented players, but they’ve already reached their peaks.
Attacking Midfield - James Maddison
If there’s one thing Liverpool’s squad noticeably lacks, it’s an out-and-out No.10 who thrives on getting in the gaps just behind the centre-forward. Sure, Xherdan Shaqiri and Diogo Jota can operate in that capacity, but how often do we actually see them do it?
Well, that’s James Maddison’s specialty and while injuries have curtailed his influence this season, a return of 23 goal involvements over the last two campaigns speaks for itself.
He’s making his way back into the side after missing the start of the campaign and should be an asset of increasing importance to the Foxes as the season goes on.
Right Wing - Mohamed Salah
No surprises here.
As the Premier League’s joint-top scorer and arguably Liverpool’s most important player, Salah was always going to take pride of place on the right wing in this combined XI.
But the selection was made even easier by the fact the Foxes, in comparison, don’t really have an undisputed right winger at the moment.
Perhaps summer signing Cengiz Under will take that mantle in the coming weeks, however so far this term Ayoze Perez, Dennis Praet and Marc Albrighton have all featured on that flank with mixed results.
Left Wing - Sadio Mane
Harvey Barnes certainly deserves an honourable mention here. The 22-year-old has already been involved in three goals this season and offers real threat down Leicester’s left-hand side.
The only problem is that when he’s not scoring or assisting, he doesn’t always manage to do an awful lot. Output is everything for the youngster.
And ultimately, that is what stops him being talked about in the same breath as Sadio Mane. Mane’s output is slightly superior with four goals to his name, but he also contributes heavily in terms of tackles, key passes and dribbles too.
Barnes has some way to go before he can hold a candle to the Liverpool star.
Striker - Jamie Vardy
While in previous seasons there would be legitimate arguments on either side in the debate over who the better front-man is, based on form this season Jamie Vardy has been leaps ahead of Roberto Firmino.
In fact, statistically this has been one of the Brazilian’s more underwhelming campaigns, whereas Vardy seems to somehow be only getting better with age having netted eight times in just seven outings this term, with only six of those being starts.
The old adage of Firmino not being in the team to score goals isn’t quite washing these days, and going into this weekend’s clash, his Leicester counterpart would be a pretty solid bet for getting on the scoresheet first.News Now - Sport News