16:00 BST, Sunday 29th October, King Power Stadium (Leicester, England)
A new era begins this weekend as Claude Puel has been quickly ushered into the vacant hot-seat in Leicester. This is now the third new era since February for the Foxes but the good news is that both of the previous regimes began with a bang and a run of good form. Leicester have faced a tough run of games in the early stages of this season but a lack of goals and a disappearing morale have paved the way for a new chapter in the Foxes’ turbulent history.
Having followed Leicester’s example of ditching an uninspiring manager, Everton also head into this game with great change circulating around them. David Unsworth is currently holding the baby under the tutelage of Joe Royle. However, it’s telling that an almost identical list of potential candidates has been drawn up for the job that filled the columns in Leicester last week. With little sign of who will sail this ship towards the end of the season, Unsworth now has a golden opportunity to show why his hat is in the ring.
Last Time Out
Leicester City 3-1 Leeds United (Carabao Cup)
Michael Appleton made it two wins out of two with what turned out to be a relatively comfortable win over the side currently sitting fourth in the Championship. With eight changes made to the starting lineup, it was an understandably slow start to the game for the Foxes. A first-half goal from the visitors sparked them into life,
However, following a quick reply from Kelechi Iheanacho there only looked likely to be one winner. The £25m striker was at the heart of many of Leicester’s better moves and he set up the second goal for his strike partner during a dominant spell for the Foxes in the second half. Vicente Iborra also played well after also receiving limited opportunities this season which could provide the first selection problems for Puel to tackle this weekend.
Chelsea 2-1 Everton (Carabao Cup)
David Unsworth got his managerial career at Everton off to a slow start with a defeat to send them out of the cup. However, his team slowly grew into the match and were unafraid of playing during the second half which was a significant improvement give Ronald Koeman’s recent assessment of the squad.
Surprise selections saw Aaron Lennon recalled while promising youngsters Jonjoe Kenny and Beni Baningime, in particular, did not look out of place in the team. Likewise, Ademola Lookman was introduced from the bench and his pace and desire caused Chelsea problems with one shot finding the woodwork. A late flurry of goals wasn’t enough to tip the tie in Everton’s favour although there was plenty of reasons to find optimism in the coming weeks.
Robert Huth (knock) and Matty James (Achilles) are the only players unavailable for the Foxes this weekend to give Claude Puel an almost open book to make his first selection from. After favouring a 4-2-3-1 formation last season, a similar lineup in personnel could be used in this system as he looks to bring about some much-needed change to the club.
The long-term injuries of Seamus Coleman (leg), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee) and Ross Barkley (hamstring) prevent their involvement, while Morgan Schneiderlin could also miss out through illness.
After pulling so many surprises with his selection in Wednesday’s cup game against Chelsea, it’s difficult to know what team or even what formation Unsworth will go with this weekend. The majority of his midfield are likely to be rotated. However, defence and attack could have a similar feel to them as the previous lineup.
Key Battle: Gylfi Sigurðsson (Team) vs Riyad Mahrez (Team)
The main creative forces from each team have failed to conjure many magical moments during their previous manager’s poor run of results but a new lease of life could see them once again come to the fore. Everton’s record signing Gylfi Sigurðsson produced the spectacular from the halfway line in his debut for the club but has since faded into obscurity.
Part of this could be due to a lack of regular games and there’s also the fact that he was often played out of position on the left wing. Whatever the reason, Unsworth will be asking the £45 million man to deliver against the Foxes.
While Jamie Vardy played through the pain for Craig Shakespeare, many of the other players failed to show similar levels of commitment to the cause. Riyad Mahrez was one such player who has seemingly lost his spark, something no doubt exasperated by his failure to secure the summer transfer move that he desired. While there have been flashes of brilliance from the mercurial winger, it’s clear he needs a new challenge and a change of direction above him could fire him back up for this game.
The New Man in Town
He may not be the most popular choice amongst supporters. However, Claude Puel is now in charge at the King Power Stadium for better or for worse. After only 8 days since Craig Shakespeare left his post and only 133 days since Puel himself found he was no longer employed, the Foxes now have their third manager in 8 months.
The Frenchman does, however, come with experience of playing in the Premier League and may well have learned much from his mistakes on the South coast. He also achieved an 8th place position in the league last year along with a cup final so there are at least some qualities which he will bring to his new club.
The odds on David Unsworth taking over the reins permanently at Everton have been slashed following a defeat from his first game in charge. It was an honourable defeat which the Toffees suffered though, something which his predecessor failed to inspire from the same group of players.
It remains to be seen whether a team built around old-fashioned values such as work rate and team spirit will be enough for the ambitious owners to award the job to Unsworth on a full-time basis. What he lacks in experience at the highest level, he more than makes up for in embodying the club and after a successful spell in the background, he certainly stands a good chance heading into his audition.
Prediction: Leicester City 2-3 Everton
An intriguing battle lies ahead with both teams under new guidance and, therefore, both likely to throw some tactical curve-balls into the arena. The appetite to prove themselves from a fresh slate should see a much more energetic performance from both sets of players.
With Claude Puel’s motivational skills less obvious than his counterpart and the fact it will take time for the new Leicester man to sink his ideas into the squad, an Everton renaissance looks to be more probable.
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