Leicester's penultimate home fixture of the season sees the Merseyside club descend on Filbert Way with ambitions of breaking into the top four following a late surge into contention courtesy of six straight Premier League wins.
The Foxes, on the other hand, require points to haul themselves out of the relegation zone – currently sitting two from safety with three games remaining. Ahead of the contest, City’s manager spoke to the media in his pre-match press conference from LCFC Training Ground.
Right the wrongs
Alongside wins for Everton and Nottingham Forest later that day, the 5-3 reverse at Fulham seven days ago proved to be a damaging defeat and one that Smith was keen to address with the players before moving on to preparing for the visit of Jürgen Klopp’s Reds.
He commented: “It was a blow. I think only after this game on Monday will we know how big a blow it was. Not just our performance, but obviously other results as well on the day. But you can’t change it. What you have to do is correct it and move forward and that’s what we’ll be looking to do over the last few days.
“We’re trying to cut out individual mistakes, which is very difficult to do. You look at the goals that we gave away against Fulham – I felt we were a little bit too passive in the first 10-15 minutes. Daniel [Iversen] made a mistake for the first goal and then we got a four vs. two and made poor decisions for the second goal.
“We were looking to play out and made further poor decisions after actually beating their press for the third goal, so all of a sudden, you feel like the world is against you when you concede that many goals.
“We had chances in the game ourselves – Harvey [Barnes] had one at 1-0 and the goalkeeper made a really good save from Vards (Jamie Vardy) at 2-0. It was one of those games where nothing really went our way.
“I felt the second goal certainly affected how we went and approached the rest of the game. In terms of fight and aggression and everything else that was talked after the game, you don’t create the amount of chances we did against Fulham if you haven’t got that. The individual mistakes let us down.
“None of the players want to be in a position we are in at the moment. They are searching for answers themselves to hopefully appease the supporters as well. All the lads care, they just show it in different ways.
“My job is to rationalise what happened. We came in the next day so we could put that game to bed. The players understand what happened and what my thoughts were and the coaches’ thoughts and we’ve moved on from there.
“It was very productive. It was meant to be a day off, but I don’t like things lingering, I would rather get that out of our system. And we did. I thought it went well. The proof will be again on Monday.”
The upcoming assignment
Smith acknowledges that it will be a challenging task to overcome one of the league’s most dangerous and in-form teams but is demanding a response from the players following that defeat at Craven Cottage. Home advantage on Filbert Way can also play a part, he believes.
“I’m expecting fight,” he continued. “But I’m also expecting better quality than we’ve shown in decision making opportunities. It was a crazy game on Monday. It could have been 9-8 with the number of chances there were for both teams.
“We’ve got to be better defensively, but we need to find that balance of making sure we don’t detract from our attacking talent as well. We need to have fewer individual errors because they are costing us too much with goals against.
“We need a collective mindset in terms of concentration and focus on what we’re trying to do and not let goals affect us. We need points, we know that. We’ve needed them (the fans) in every game we had.
“They were rightly disappointed at half-time with the scoreline but their support in the second half was magnificent because they could see the players were trying to get back into the game in certain stages. We will need them like we have in the previous home games.
“They (Liverpool) have just won six games on the spin, so you look at that knowing it’s a really tough time to face them. But they haven’t won as many games on the road as they usually do. In the Premier League they’ve only taken 10 points out of the last 30.
“We’ve got to make sure that we are a Brighton or a Brentford performance against them to get a result. The key is to have as many of your players getting seven or eight out of 10s. You go back to winning duels again.
“You’ve got to run harder, run faster than the opposition and use the ball better. If we do that, we’ve got every chance.”
Control the controllable
While Leicester find themselves back in the bottom three following Monday’s results, Smith is expecting plenty more twists and turns in the final three weeks of the season. The squad’s focus, though, is very much on their own showings.
“We can’t affect results elsewhere,” the 52-year-old explained. “All we can concentrate on is ourselves. I’ll take the experiences I’ve had before in this situation and give them to the players to help them, but we can’t control that. It’s down to us to produce performances to get results now. We need a clean sheet. The players know the incentive to get points.
“The belief and that positivity around everyone - I can only talk from the five games that we’ve had and, apart from Fulham, we haven’t given loads of chances away. The Everton game was quite a unique game. We didn’t want to take that into Fulham but unfortunately it carried on. Our job now is to make sure we’re focused on these last three.
“I’ve seen what I’ve seen previously in training. The week leading up to Fulham had been really good in the training. This week has been the same in terms of training, but what’s important is matches now.
“Things have changed around this season and it’s our job to get ourselves out of it. I’ve not changed in any way. I’ve been myself. When players need leaving out, I’ll leave them out. That’s just part of the structure of being a manager. I feel it’s the right way to manage for me and hopefully we can get the best out of the players that way.
“We were written off six games ago. And then all of sudden it looked like Leeds and Everton were written off and now Everton aren’t. The game can change very quickly.”
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