Leicester City are preparing to welcome Liverpool to the King Power Stadium for the first of two straight fixtures against the Reds, with the two sides set to do battle in the Premier League in four days’ time.
With a league match imminent, it will be a difficult decision for Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare over whether to play a strong XI.
Naturally, the Carabao Cup is a good chance for a club like Leicester to make a good go of winning a trophy, but every point counts in the Premier League and it’s important that the Foxes aren’t sucked into another relegation battle.
These two sides have only met once before in the League Cup, with Liverpool running out 4-1 victors en route to the final in 1987.
Last time out
Huddersfield Town 1-1 LEICESTER CITY
The Terriers were dominant at the John Smith’s Stadium and were unfortunate not to earn all three points, but as expected, Jamie Vardy was on hand to rescue the Foxes with a second-half penalty.
Andy King won the spot-kick after Chris Lowe tripped him in the box, with Vardy confidently converting past Huddersfield ‘keeper Jonas Lossl, the first goal he had conceded at home in the Premier League.
The hosts led through Laurent Depoitre in the first minute of the second half and almost retook the lead shortly after Vardy’s equaliser, but Elias Kachunga was ruled out for offside after claiming the final touch on Mathias Jorgensen’s effort.
The Foxes had a second penalty shout in the closing stages through Demarai Gray though it was denied by Jon Moss and the spoils shared.
LIVERPOOL 1-1 Burnley
Jurgen Klopp cut an extremely frustrated figure at the final whistle on Saturday as Burnley frustrated his side and left Anfield with another point on their travels.
The Reds created 35 opportunities throughout the game and enjoyed 71% of the ball, but the Clarets were deep, compact and organised and stoically defended their goal for the entire game.
Scott Arfield gave Burnley the lead after some poor Liverpool defending allowed him to ghost into the box unmarked and volley home a loose ball after Trent Alexander-Arnold was out-muscled in the duel by Robbie Brady.
Although the Reds equalised shortly after through key man Mo Salah, they were lucky not to lose as Joel Matip was needed to clear Ben Mee’s header off the line following some chaotic set piece defending.
Substitute Dominic Solanke’s effort against the bar was the closest Liverpool came to a winner as Burnley enjoyed another afternoon away from Turf Moor.
Leicester City Lineup
Jamie Vardy is a major doubt for this Third Round tie after picking up a hamstring injury in the draw at Huddersfield, joining Matty James (Achilles), Robert Huth (ankle) and Christian Fuchs (eye) on the absentee list.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to be given his first start for the Reds after coming off the bench in their last three games, whilst goalkeeper Danny Ward and midfielder Marko Grujic are also set to feature.
Striker Dominic Solanke and right back Jon Flanagan will also play a part, whilst Sadio Mane sits out the second game of this three-match ban.
Key Battle: Kelechi Iheanacho vs Ragnar Klavan
Ragnar Klavan isn’t the best of centre-backs and time and time again, he’s proven himself inadequate at dealing with long balls into the penalty area, winning just 35 headed duels in 2016/17.
He’s a very obvious weakness in an already under-strength Liverpool backline and I’d be surprised if Craig Shakespeare isn’t targeting him as the weak link. Klavan seemed to struggle against the imposing presence of Chris Wood and it could be more of the same against Kelechi Iheanacho.
Leicester’s summer signing is expected to fill in for the injured Jamie Vardy and offer something different to his new teammate.
If he’s partnered with Islam Slimani, Leicester will have two tall, physical threats the Liverpool centre-backs will have to deal with and it’s arguably the best way for the Foxes to take anything from the game; involving the strikers as much as possible and giving them duels to win and balls to knock-down to supporting teammates.
A massive chance for Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool in a £35m move on deadline day from Arsenal but is yet to start a game for the Reds, coming off the bench against Manchester City, Sevilla and Burnley.
He’s expected to start in the Carabao Cup and it’s a massive opportunity for the English international to stake a claim for a first-team spot by impressing in a central role against Premier League opposition.
Given his penchant for playing in a central role, this is Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chance to prove that he has the technical ability and vision to play in such a role, but it won’t be easy given the calibre of Leicester defender he’s up against in Harry Maguire and Wes Morgan.
The Sean Dyche blueprint
The Burnley boss admitted after the game he instructed his side to test the Liverpool centre-backs with long balls into the penalty area, and isolating the fullbacks against his wingers with similar long, searching balls. It worked to great effect, with Arfield’s goal arising from that exact situation.
Given Leicester’s style of play, this is something Craig Shakespeare should look to get the Foxes to do.
Especially against a Liverpool side that like to throw numbers forward and leave space in behind their high defensive line, a long ball into one of Iheanacho or Slimani could work a treat, with the likes of Demarai Gray and Riyad Mahrez running on to win the second ball and get in behind with their speed and skill.
PREDICTION: Leicester City 1-2 Liverpool
If Shakespeare names a strong side, I think the Foxes can give Liverpool a real run for their money, especially if they try to isolate their centre-backs one-on-one with the powerful presences of Iheanacho and Slimani, but I think the Reds have more than enough quality in their rotated XI to see of this threat.
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