Brendan Rodgers tenure at Leicester City got off to a slightly rocky start last weekend, so he could do with a result against a Fulham team who haven’t had any points for some time now. The Cottagers have changed managers as well and with just one game played under Scott Parker, it’s hard to predict exactly how they’ll look.
We’ve broken down some of the key areas and individual match ups that could decide the outcome.
1. Maguire/Morgan/Evans vs Mitrović
Aleksandar Mitrović has more goals than his two highest scoring teammates combined, and three times as many expected goals as the next highest Fulham player. To say that he’s key to their attacking plans is somewhat of an understatement.
The Foxes back three are all big and strong enough to contend with him in the air, but will still need to be at their best to do so. When his aerial presence is nullified, Fulham have a very hard time scoring.
Even at home, you’d expect them to sit deep and look to break quickly. There’s still a little uncertainty in this new defensive system, and Morgan was caught out last week. Mitrović likes to push the boundaries, having been caught offside more than almost anyone this year, so the back line absolutely has to stay disciplined if they’re going to push up the pitch.
2. Force them through the middle
As above, Mitrović is very important to Fulham’s game plan, and quite predictably so, with the majority of his chances and goals based around getting his head on the end of crosses.
Everyone on the pitch will know Fulham want to get the ball out wide and cross into him, and it’ll primarily be up to Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira to stop that (both are top 10 for crosses blocked this year according to whoscored.com).
When forced inside by Chelsea last week, Fulham played the ball predominantly through Tom Cairney. He’s a good player, but not the creator they’d need to play that style of football. If Leicester can force them to try and play through the middle, they should struggle to create chances.
3. James Maddison vs Patience
I focussed on defensive battles through the first two because Fulham have conceded the most goals from open play this season, and it’s not even close. Scoring should not be a problem.
The home side will likely sit back and try to soak up pressure with a packed and organised defence. Under those circumstances, we know the team will look to James Maddison to try to break them down, though he should have help from the likes of Tielemans and Barnes.
As impressive as he’s been at creating chances this year, Madders does have a slight tendency to shoot as soon as there’s an opening. He leads the team in shots taken, with nearly as many from outside the area as Vardy has from inside. When it comes to taking too many low-percentage chances, he’s the main culprit.
If he and his fellow Foxes can keep calm and keep passing, Fulham can always be broken down to create much better chances.