Having made a positive start to the season winning their first two games, West Brom have gone into something of a lull of late, with no win in their last five. This has seen them drop down to 11th in the table on nine points.down to 11th in the table on nine points.
Leicester City, meanwhile, have struggled so far this season and are currently sitting in the relegation places. With just one win from their opening seven games, getting maximum points tonight is crucial for Craig Shakespeare’s side. In fairness to Shakespeare, the Foxes have played the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool already this season. This makes games like tonight’s all the more crucial as they seek to get their Premier League campaign back on track.
RealSport has picked out three key battles for tonight’s game.
Jamie Vardy vs Ahmed Hegazi
Recently Jamie Vardy has rediscovered the form he showed in Leicester City’s title-winning campaign. So far, he has five Premier League goals in seven games this season. With his aggressive running and the ability to finish with either foot or his head, he doesn’t give defenders a moment’s peace. However, Vardy works best when there is space in behind for him to run onto. West Brom’s manager, Tony Pulis, is famous for employing a compact defensive structure and will no doubt look to do the same tonight to deny Vardy any space.
Ahmed Hegazi has made a good start to life at West Bromwich and is a paradigmatic Pulis centre half. Big, reliable, no nonsense and well organised, he has slotted straight into the Baggies’ back line. However, given Vardy is one of the best strikers in the league, this will be one of the Egyptian’s toughest challenges yet.
Shinji Okazaki vs Grzegorz Krychowiak
With Jamie Vardy looking to play on the shoulder and get in behind the West Brom defence, it is Shinji Okazaki who drops deep to help provide the link between midfield and attack. Like Vardy, the Japanese international is a tireless worker and has made a great start to the season with three goals in five starts. He also averages 0.8 tackles per game, showing how hard he works for his side. Despite the Foxes’ having a number of options to choose from to play up front, then, Okazaki has secured his place in the starting XI.
Krychowiak himself has made a great start to life in the Premier League after a shock loan move to the club from PSG in the summer. The Polish international is ideally suited to West Brom’s defensive set up and he is also comfortable on the ball. The defensive midfielder is a master at denying the opposition space in front of the defence particularly in the areas Okazaki will look to drop into. The former Sevilla midfielder is averaging 2.3 tackles and 3.8 interceptions per game so far this season and, with Leicester looking to break quickly and directly, those numbers are likely to increase tonight.
Demarai Gray vs Kieran Gibbs
Left back Kieran Gibbs has discovered a new lease of life since his £7 million move to the Baggies from Arsenal in the summer. Since arriving at the club, he has averaged 1.8 tackles and 4.5 clearances per game and has slotted comfortably into Tony Pulis’ side.
Gibbs is good at defending in one-on-one situations, something Leicester City’s Demarai Gray likes to take advantage of. The England under 21 international has wonderful dribbling and ball manipulation, being able to carry the ball at pace with trickery. He can go past either side of his defender and is improving his end product all the time.
However, despite his obvious ability, Gray has failed to hold down a regular place in the starting XI at his club, making the team sheet just once for a league start this season. Nevertheless, he is often his side’s most dangerous player and will likely make his second league start of the season tonight. Leicester will look to get the tricky wideman to work himself into isolated situations against Gibbs who himself has good pace. It should make for an interesting battle.
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