It may make no sense at all, but a clear pattern has emerged: Leicester City are hopeless against relegation strugglers, but can take points from the toughest fixtures in the league, as they did with a 1-1 draw at Liverpool in the week. Presumably then, it’ll be easy going this weekend, as we face a Manchester United team undefeated in nine games under their new boss.
We’ve broken down some of the key areas and individual match ups that could decide the outcome.
1. Wilfred Ndidi/Nampalys Mendy/Hamza Choudhury vs Paul Pogba
The footballing world was shocked to discover over the last few months that Paul Pogba is actually really really good at football, and the Busby Babe recently summarised his importance to the United attack. Giving the World Cup winner as little room as possible will be key, and that job will fall to the two (or three?) defensive midfielders.
Solskjaer expects Pogba and Martial to be fit for Leicester. #mufc— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 1, 2019
A lack of closing down, particularly just outside the penalty area, has been a thorn in this team’s defence all season. Pogba has the ability to pick the pass or thrash one into the top corner, if the mood catches him, so it’s imperative that we defend those areas doggedly.
2. Careful tackling vs what we normally do
The Foxes escaped without punishment for four fouls in dangerous areas against Liverpool (plus a penalty that could have been given against Pereira). They conceded eight more dangerous fouls between the Chelsea and Manchester City games. It’s always a danger when defending deep, but we can’t afford to offer United those kind of chances.
Their 11 set piece goals is the second highest mark in the league this year, while they lead the way with six penalties. No game showed that better than the last; Pogba converted a penalty in a second straight league game, and Victor Lindelof scrambled home an equaliser from a half-cleared corner. Burnley’s defence worked so hard to see their opponents at bay, only to hand chances back to them.
3. Create space for Jamie Vardy
Only two teams take more of their shots outside the box than Leicester City. Only two defences force a higher percentage of shots from distance than Manchester United. With the Red Devils also very hard to catch out on the counter attack this year, this could be a frustrating day for the Foxes’ leading man.
Either Vardy or Maddison can make great use of a foot of space in front of goal, but the midfield has to get better at opening those up. Even if it means losing the ball more frequently, the Foxes simply can’t allow United to shut off the box and resort to their usual aimless crosses and shots from distance. You know, unless...
Throwback to when Youri Tielemans scored two screamers in 10 minutes for Anderlecht...— Goal (@goal) January 31, 2019
...one with each foot! pic.twitter.com/iHmVebN0KZ
I’d be alright with this.