James Justin has seen an exceptional breakthrough season abruptly end after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday.
The 22-year-old was stretchered off during Leicester City’s narrow triumph in the FA Cup after appearing to sustain a knee issue when landing awkwardly during the second half.
Boss Brendan Rodgers described the news as a ‘devastating blow’ for a player whose versatility and guile has been instrumental to his side’s commendable successes this season.
Despite initial hopes of nothing more than a minor setback to a young talent that has surpassed expectations in cementing an eminent place on the team sheet, scans revealed the true extent of the agonising injury.
A daunting clash against the champions
Justin has proved his worth as an unrelenting presence for the Foxes for the duration of the campaign – playing every minute of the league season to date – and hopes of another appearance before the season’s culmination are extremely sceptical.
The loss of Justin now presents the unwanted potential to see a disruption to the side's finely poised and balanced chemistry as the team prepares for a home tie against Liverpool.
The Reds – despite seeing a profound decrease in form – are always highly adept with the implementation of a pressing style, looking to expose opponent’s defensive weaknesses and clinically finish chances to eradicate opponents hopes of prevailing.
Leicester will still be confident of stopping such a scenario from coming into fruition, but the beginning of Justin’s extended absence will likely hinder chances of maintaining their third-place position in the Premier League.
The effects on a brilliant campaign
Leicester are renowned for their excellent work regarding transfer activity, and the shrewd acquisition of Justin from Luton Town in 2019 was warmly received for a player of notable potential.
Few, however, would have envisioned the meteoric rise that ensued, and despite an ACL injury inflicted on the team's established right-back Ricardo Pereira during the latter stages of the 2019/20 campaign, Justin provided sufficient cover as he made consecutive starts across the final ten fixtures.
In a cruel twist of fate, just as Pereira makes his anticipated return Justin knows a prolonged period of inactivity awaits as he prepares for surgery following the hapless incident.
Justin’s ability to thrive across a multitude of scenarios on a football pitch fuels the fire when promoting the physical and mental attributes that have aided the development of a rising star.
Speaking to LCFCTV, Rodgers added depth to the claims and expressed his despair at the dejecting announcement, saying:
“Sadly the scan hasn't shown up so well, which is a massive blow for us,"
“He’s played in many positions. Wherever I’ve asked him to play, whatever position, he’s been a minimum eight out of 10 and developing as a top Premier League player.
“He was obviously walking around after the game and we hoped he would be okay, but of course, you have to wait until he gets the scan.
“He’s in London today [Friday] with our doctor, just trying to get all the expertise in terms of the next step.”
A potential hinderance to seasonal hopes
For Rodgers and his immensely talented squad, Justin’s injury has come at a terrible moment for the club, who are preparing for an extensive and gruelling period of pivotal football.
With the pursuit of Champions League qualification and the knockout period of the Europa League soon to commence – City face Slavia Praha in the round-of-32 – the setback could prove detrimental for a side seeking a first major honour since the unprecedented title success of 2016.
The return of Pereira will undoubtedly lift the spirits of those around him, but the fluidity of the side might suffer a blow as the player looks to reintegrate himself into the set-up.
Justin has earned widespread acclaim for his performances at the beginning of a potentially prosperous career, and despite the acrimony of a serious injury, the return will prove the basis for a career of exultation.