- Liverpool and Leicester City face off in the Premier League on Thursday (7:45pm GMT kick-off)
- The Foxes won the reverse fixture, but the Reds triumphed in the last Anfield meeting
- The Anfield Wrap’s Mo Stewart discusses the key battles he expects from the encounter
- Adding players back to the squad makes Liverpool even more dangerous, he believes
In the two sides’ last meeting at Anfield, Jürgen Klopp’s men twice came from two goals down to take their Carabao Cup Quarter-Final to penalties, eventually winning 5-4 in the shootout, while it was Brendan Rodgers’ side who came out on top on Filbert Way in the first fixture after Christmas, triumphing 1-0 courtesy of Ademola Lookman’s second-half strike.
The Reds have not lost in any competition since that night, a run of seven matches unbeaten, and currently occupy second spot in the league standings, one point in front of Chelsea but 12 behind leaders Manchester City, albeit with two games in hand.
Stewart identified a strong defensive midfield partnership which could be crucial to help prevent the Foxes completing a league double over Liverpool by stifling the attacking talent and soaking up any pressure that the likes of James Maddison, Patson Daka and others could bring.
He told LCFC Radio’s Matchday Live show in the build-up to tonight’s fixture: “That King Power Stadium game was really hard for us to watch, particularly after the joy of what happened in the League Cup. It’s strange, in the two games so close together, both teams that lost probably felt like they should have won in both.
Lookman's Strike Seals Memorable Liverpool Triumph
Ademola Lookman's second-half strike helped Leicester City to a 1-0 success over Liverpool.
“It’s going to be an interesting dynamic. A player who didn’t play in the defeat at King Power Stadium is Thiago [Alcântara]. Not just because of his particular play, but the way he partners with Fabinho is so crucial to our defensive set-up and Leicester have got lots of good attackers.
“Our main destructor Jamie Vardy won’t be around (due to injury), which is good news at least, but Kelechi Iheanacho is a great player, obviously Lookman scored the goal at King Power Stadium. Having that Thiago-Fabinho axis just makes us all feel a little bit more comfortable.
“In terms of where we are as a team overall, our confidence is high and playing a team who beat us when we felt like we shouldn’t have been beaten is probably a good thing right now. Maybe we can be taking this extra confidence that we have and right that wrong.”
The mood around Anfield is further boosted by the return of Mo Salah and Sadio Mané after the pair competed in the CAF African Cup of Nations Final for their respective countries, though Stewart believes both may not be risked in order to prevent burnout, especially as other players return to full fitness.
Harvey Elliott’s long injury lay-off ended with his introduction from the bench against Cardiff City in the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday, and the youngster found the net on his return, while new recruit Luis Díaz made his Anfield bow after signing from FC Porto.
Diogo Jota is still the highest scorer in the league. If you take Mo Salah out of the equation, Jota has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season. He’s a big danger.Mo Stewart The Anfield Wrap
He explained: “Injuries are obviously something that are a part of football, but we feel like we’ve been particularly heavily hit for a long time over the last couple of years and it seems to be clearing up at the moment. We have more options than we have had, and I think that’s the key when you’re playing the way we play, with such intensity.
“You need to be able to freshen it up from game to game, even if it’s just one or two coming in and out, and now we’ve got a great squad to be able to do that. Everyone is returning, including Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, which is good news for Liverpool but maybe bad news for Leicester. The reality is that Klopp will have to be sensible.
“You want to think that they won’t just throw Salah straight in, but he is going to want to come back. He is going to be determined because he will be disappointed, not only with how AFCON finished, but that he didn’t get a chance to make an impact in that penalty shootout.
“He’ll also remember what happened last time we played Leicester, the fact he missed a penalty in that game, so if there is another one on Thursday, you can bet he’ll take it and probably score as well.”
Into the fifth round of the FA Cup, where they will host Norwich City, the last-16 of the UEFA Champions League and a two-legged tie with Inter Milan, and the League Cup Final against Chelsea, there is plenty for the Merseysiders to contend between now and the end of the season, while also trying to chase down Manchester City at the Premier League’s summit.
City Score Three At Anfield
All of the goals from Leicester City's 3-3 draw with Liverpool in the Carabao Cup Quarter-Finals.
Big performances at both ends of the pitch will be crucial to Liverpool’s chances of earning more silverware this season and Portuguese winger Diogo Jota stands out as a key player in their quest for success. The 25-year-old has 10 goals in 21 top-flight fixtures so far this term.
“Jota is still the highest scorer in the league,” the broadcaster added. “If you take Mo Salah out of the equation, Jota has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season. He’s a big danger.
“Those who were injured are coming back. [Joe] Gomez hasn’t had a run of games to get his rhythm going but it looks like he is physically fit and we’ve got some great options. Obviously [Ibrahima] Konaté has come in and he’s looked fantastic.
“We are still fighting for five trophies at this stage of the season, something we’ve never done under Jürgen Klopp. There’s a lot of games to deal with, but we’re reminding ourselves of 2001 when we won the three trophies.
“It was almost like the momentum of each different competition helped us in a way. We’ve got the squad, the talent, the depth and the confidence to deal with that. Hopefully this game on Thursday is the start of another good run and a really good end of the season.”
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