Written by Adam Hawkes.
Liverpool travel to Leicester in the Premier League looking to make it 12 points out of 12 at the start of the season. Here are some of the key points to consider ahead of the match at the King Power.
No Jamie Vardy for the foxes – can Liverpool capitalise?
Over the last few years, Jamie Vardy has become a player that is synonymous with causing the Liverpool backline major problems. He has seven goals in his last five games against the reds, scoring in all of them. This includes both of the Premier League fixtures between the two sides last season. Despite the foxes losing both games, the England international still got on the scoresheet in both, while even having a penalty saved by Simon Mignolet at the King Power stadium. The last time he came up against the Anfield side and didn’t score was on Boxing Day 2015, with a Christian Benteke goal being the difference between the two sides. Since then, Vardy’s pace and athleticism, combined with his ability to position himself in dangerous areas, has been troublesome to say the least for Klopp’s defence. With Vardy still suspended, it is expected that Nigeria international Kelechi Iheanacho will lead the line for the foxes. Whilst not as quick as Vardy, Iheanacho is a deadly finisher with great positioning, and needs to be monitored closely if Alisson and co are to keep him at bay. A somewhat fortunate absentee for Liverpool at least, Vardy will be missed. However, don’t be surprised if the former Manchester City forward strikes on Saturday.
Can Liverpool make it four wins out of four for the first time since 1978/79?
Liverpool have started off the season perfectly results wise. Three wins out of three for the first time since 2013/14, where the reds would fall agonisingly short of the title, things look much stronger this time around defensively. The last time, however, that the reds won their first four opening league games was 1978/79. If they do beat Leicester on Saturday, they’ve got a lot to live up to. Bob Paisley’s men scored 16 and conceded 2 in that time, compared to the current squads 7 goals for and 0 against. The side, who would go on to win the league title, would only concede twice more at Anfield for the entirety of that league season. The current reds defence would be delighted to get anywhere near that tally.
Will Firmino finally open his account for the season?
It’s been a season of mixed emotions so far for Roberto Firmino. Despite the team winning and himself playing a big part in that with two assists, he’ll be disappointed that he has been unable to find the back of the net so far. In his three games so far, he has assisted Sadio Mané against West Ham (albeit he was offside), been rather quiet against Palace, and assisted Mo Salah’s winner against Brighton with a well timed lay off. Nothing spectacular, but a steady start to the season for the Brazil international. He’ll be hoping to build on that at the King Power with his first goal of the season. Klopp has dismissed claims of a slow start for Firmino, saying: “It’s absolutely all okay. If people talk about him because he’s a No 9, it’s not important for him and it’s not important for me. He will score goals 100%. He’s involved in all of our offensive situations, even with opening the gap with a run or playing the pass or whatever. First defender, all that stuff.” Firmino will be looking to use that praise as motivation to not only continue his good form in terms of all round play, but to get on the scoresheet as well.
Will the midfield stay unchanged?
Compared to last season, Klopp has midfield options aplenty in this Liverpool side. Whether that be due to new signings such as Naby Keïta and the unused Fabinho, or the return from injuries for players such as Adam Lallana and even Jordan Henderson, who has also yet to start a game this season. Then you have the reliable, experienced options in Gini Wijnaldum and particularly James Milner, who have both started the season excellently in midfield. It has become clear that Klopp does not intend to rush Fabinho into the side, making the same mistake that lots of managers make with a new signing. Instead he will let the Brazil international become accustomed to the style of play and work rate that the German demands, knowing that he has quality in back up, with both skipper Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum being able to play the number 6 role. Klopp has come out and praised the versatility of Wijnaldum, saying “Gini can switch from one mindset to the other and that is pretty good for us. If you ask me he was brilliant in pre-season as the eight. He was good as the six but brilliant as the eight. That’s why we never had any doubts about him. He can play both.” He looks set to start on Saturday, as does Naby Keïta. It’ll be interesting to see whether the last spot in midfield is given to James Milner, who has started every game so far, or Jordan Henderson, his trustworthy captain.
Can Salah continue his form against Leicester?
In last seasons two games against Leicester, Mohamed Salah managed three goals, all crucial in getting the victory. The first was a header at the King Power to put Liverpool 1-0 up in a game that eventually ended 3-2 to the visitors. That’s nothing compared to what he did in the reverse fixture at Anfield, though. With the Reds 1-0 down to a (you guessed it) Jamie Vardy goal, Salah clawed his side back into the game almost single handedly, turning Harry Maguire inside out to score twice, and win the game 2-1 for the Merseyside club. With the Leicester defence so far looking quite similar to that of last years, despite the signings of Jonny Evans and Ricardo Pereira, Salah will believe he can carry on his form against the Foxes. With two goals in the opening three games, the Egyptian has showed no signs of slowing down from last seasons 44 goal haul. With centre backs Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire not being the quickest, Salah will be looking to brutally expose this weakness in behind, on the counter attack. Expect Liverpool’s star man to chip in once again against Puel’s side.