Everything is fine for Leicester City. It’s all ok, you can trust me, so don’t look at the table or the last eight results. If we were to pretend for a second that the wheels are falling off the season and everything is going wrong, then this upcoming run of winnable, home games, starting with Crystal Palace, would be really really important.
We’ve broken down some of the key areas and individual match ups that could decide the outcome.
1. Ricardo Pereira vs Wilfred Zaha
Palace have spread the goals around this year, but their main attacking threat has primarily been through Wilfred Zaha, their top rated played, according to whoscored.com. In what should make for a fascinating duel, he’ll be playing directly against our own top performer, Ricardo Pereira.
The Eagles send more of their attacks down the left than anyone else, and the Portugal international will also have to watch out for LB Patrick van Aanholt, who leads the team in expected assists.
Ricardo’s strength has really been in attack. While he’s really improved defensively as the season has worn on this will be a big test for him, against a player in Zaha who has run at defenders more than anyone but Eden Hazard.
2. Ben Chilwell vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka
On the other side of the pitch, we know Townsend is a threat to shoot from range, but the most interesting contest may be between the two fullbacks, Ben Chilwell and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Both are exciting, young, english players enjoying their breakout seasons in the Premier League. Their play styles are also fairly similar, with both loving to carry the ball forward, which means we should see the two up against one another plenty.
Pep Guardiola is eyeing a summer move for home grown pair Ben Chilwell (22) of Leicester and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (21) of Crystal Palace to bolster the left and right-back positions. The two could cost a combined £80m. [Sun Sport] pic.twitter.com/NL6UtWoSqi— City Watch (@City_Watch) February 2, 2019
Wan-Bissaka might have the edge defensively at this point, so a good contribution from Harvey Barnes would also be very useful. If he and Maddison are able to push the RB deep into his own territory, Chilwell should be very capable of dealing Townsend alone.
3. Opening up the counter attacks
The Foxes still lead league in goals from counter attacks, so it’s clearly something all opponents will have to take into account. Finding opportunities to make those breaks is usually harder at home, especially against a defensively strong team like Palace, who tend to play with less than 50% of possession.
Having said that (and having spent the rest of the article singing the praises of their wide players), no one has been dispossessed more often than Wilfred Zaha this year. Andros Townsend is also top 10 in the league, while Wan-Bissaka is 3rd among defenders.
If we’re on our game defensively, the chances to create quick counters will be there. The key will be for the likes of Pereira, Chilwell and Ndidi to turnover possession and get the ball into the feet of creative types as quickly as possible (the addition of Tielemans should help this a lot. If they get plenty of opportunities to set Gray, Barnes and Vardy free, there will be holes to exploit.