The never-ending wilderness of the winter break is nearly over. With Leicester City playing the first game of the weekend, they have a chance to temporarily move up to 2nd with a win over Wolves. Here are some areas the game could be decided.
1. Adama Traoré vs Ben Chilwell
The last time these two teams faced off, the first game of the season, Adama played no part at all. Wolves only used two subs, but didn’t feel like he could contribute to a game lacking goals. How things have changed.
The lightning fast winger is on an absolute tear at the moment, terrifying defenders up and down the country/right wing. No other player in the league can match his ability to run with the ball, so it could be a long day for Chilly.
The England LB had a bit of a rough patch, but seems to be through it after a good performance against Chelsea. No one has Traoré’s long speed, but Chilwell’s impressive quickness should at least give him a chance to hang in there.
The former Barcelona winger has really added a final ball to his game this year, particularly when targeting Raul Jiménez. The forward has height that the Foxes’ defenders just can’t match, so it’s important to cut out as many crosses as possible.
2. Harvey Barnes vs Matt Doherty
In the first meeting Brendan Rodgers opted for a very narrow style, with James Maddison and Ayoze Perez as his “wide” players. With no real attacking threat to worry about, Wolves’ wingbacks were allowed to get forward and lead the team in touches.
Barnes was introduced after an hour and, while he wasn’t quite at his best, the extra width he provided changed the flow of the game, and the Foxes’ best chances followed.
Squawka's Alternative Premier League Goal of the Month: January.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 7, 2020
Ricardo → Pérez → Ricardo → Maddison → Tielemans → Barnes → Ricardo → Barnes → ⚽️
Picked and animated by @lastrowview. pic.twitter.com/bGpbdsXGXW
There feels like no doubt that the home grown winger will start this time. Since the turn of the year, he’s creating goals like he never has before, with six goal contributions in as any games.
Ayoze Perez has earned the chance to keep his place on the opposite side, but we know by now not to rely on him for width. Instead the team will be relying on Barnes to run beyond RB Matt Doherty, and reduce his impact in the midfield.
3. Maddison/Tielemans vs Moutinho/Neves
It feels wrong to keep banging on about the first game - it was 25 games ago and a lot has changed since. In particular, the Foxes have cut down on their tendency to pepper the goal from distance. We really struggled there last time, taking 14 shots from outside the box.
The main culprits were James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, but they have since become the solution as well. The Foxes have become fairly reliant on this pair to pick the passes required to play through the packed defences we often face.
Maddison has been the most influential creator, providing 15 key passes in the last three league games, including 10 chances created inside the penalty area. His Belgian partner is always key in the buildup, however, and he did provide two assists against Chelsea.
They will most likely find themselves up against Wolves’ preferred midfield duo of Ruben Neves and João Moutinho. They aren’t weak defensively, but if it becomes a 2-on-2 situation regularly, the advantage is likely with the Foxes.