Leicester City host Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United at the King Power Stadium this Sunday, with the Foxes seeking to retain their top four spot that is currently being threatened by several clubs. On the other hand, Leeds are seeking to blemish the East-Midlanders' unbeaten run and aiming to climb up the table with three crucial points.
As matchday 20 of the 2020/2021 Premier League season drew to a close this midweek, it is now exceptionally evident that the top-four race is heating up. Current league leaders Manchester City are first with 41 points, followed by Manchester United with 40 points, Leicester City with 39, and Liverpool with 37. Additionally, West Ham United are being given a sniff at UEFA Champions League qualification as well, as the Hammers sit fifth in the table with 35 points.
With so much pressure being placed upon the top of the Premier League table, Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers and his squad are determined to gain as many points as possible. This week, the East Midlands club are fronted with the task to defeat Leeds United, who have been in tipsy form as of late.
Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa is seeking to prolong the Whites current form, as they defeated Steve Bruce and his Newcastle United on Tuesday. “El Loco” and his team have previously lost to Leicester this season, an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at Elland Road.
In order to comprehend what the Foxes must do to defeat Leeds; it is critical to analyze what both teams have achieved as of late.
Tricky wingers will provide stellar production
When looking at Leicester and Leeds from a neutral standpoint, it is evident that their wingers will be essential on Sunday.
Leeds have depended greatly on their wingers Jack Harrison and Raphinha, as they have scored a combined seven goals this season. Not only that, Raphinha takes 2.88 shots per 90, which places him 14th overall in the Premier League in that category. That is higher than the likes of Everton stars Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, as well as Manchester United and England international Marcus Rashford.
Harrison follows Raphinha’s footsteps of great form, as he has created 58 shot-creating actions this season, ranking him above Tottenham Hotspur favorite Heung-Min Son and even Manchester City regular Raheem Sterling in this category.
In terms of the Foxes, England youngster Harvey Barnes and Leicester veteran Marc Albrighton have been essential to Rodgers’ scheme. Barnes has taken 41 shots this season in the Premier League, which places him 14th among all players in the Premier League, defeating players like Son and Crystal Palace talisman Wilfred Zaha in this category. Albrighton has been extremely consistent likewise, providing 15 key passes this season. That is higher than the likes of United midfielder Paul Pogba, and United States international Christian Pulisic.
Rodgers and Bielsa will both seek to unleash their wingers, as the striker position has been unproductive for both teams as of late. Leeds have not gotten striker Patrick Bamford to score since the beginning of December, which was when he netted a penalty against Burnley to grant them a win against Sean Dyche and his Clarets.
Leicester currently has center-forward Ayoze Perez playing as a false nine due to Jamie Vardy’s injury, which is not very inspiring, as Perez has only scored two goals in all competitions this season. It is yet to be determined if Rodgers opts to utilize the talent of Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho on Sunday, but neither Perez nor Iheanacho provide as much in the offensive threat compared to Vardy.
A pinpoint midfield
Not only wingers will be key for both Bielsa and Rodgers at the King Power on Sunday, but their midfields will be as well. Both midfields have produced great numbers this season.
When it comes to Leeds’ midfield, Poland international Mateusz Klich is truly the heart of Bielsa’s middle of the park. Klich has produced a staggering 36 key passes this season, ranking him 6th among all Premier League players in key passes. This results in Klich defeating players like Colombian international and Everton player James Rodriguez, as well as on-form Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse in the process. Leeds also boasts Northern Irish midfielder Stuart Dallas, who has completed 78 tackles and interceptions this season, placing him above the likes of fellow teammate and England international Kalvin Phillips, Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi, and Liverpool star Fabinho.
In terms of City’s midfield, nothing must be disputed. Belgium international and Fox Youri Tielemans is relishing his game time as usual, providing 114 passes into the final third this season, placing him fifth among all players in the league in this category. Not only that, Tielemans has won 25 of his 32 total tackles this season, which is an amazing rate of 78.1 percent.
The East Midlands club also possesses undisputable starter James Maddison, who has been amazing since his unfortunate hip and knee injuries recently. Maddison is creating 4.56 shot-creating actions per 90, which places him sixth among all midfielders in the Premier League. He has additionally scored six goals for the Foxes this season, which places him in second in the Foxes’ top goal scorers’ chart alongside Barnes, who also has six goals this season as well.
Finally, shot-stoppers will make the difference in this game. Young French goalkeeper Illian Meslier has been pretty decent in his first Premier League season, providing 67 saves this season. On the flipside, Meslier has conceded 34 goals this season, placing him third in most goals conceded among all goalkeepers in the Premier League. In contrast, City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has conceded 22 goals this season and provided 57 saves throughout the season.
Due to the fact that Leicester’s defense has been rock solid and in contention for being one of the best in the League, Schmeichel has provided fewer saves than Meslier but conceded far less more goals. Leeds have struggled with injuries regarding the defensive part of their system throughout the season, as German international Robin Koch suffered a knee injury that will have him sidelined until March. Not only that, Spain international Diego Llorente suffered a blow ten minutes into their game against Newcastle on Tuesday, which will also have him sidelined for the clash against Leicester.
Many have hailed this game as a pretty easy win for Leicester, but Leeds possess the necessary talent and prowess to cause an upset. Leicester must deal with the blows of Ndidi and Vardy with Perez and French midfielder Nampalys Mendy, meanwhile Leeds must deal with the blow of Llorente with Dutch defender Pascal Struijk. The Argentinian mastermind that is Bielsa will have his players fighting until the final whistle, and Brendan’s Blue Army must be ready to deal with such ferocity and intent.