It’s been a tough season for Leicester City. Not necessarily for their performance on the pitch — the Foxes are currently ninth in the table with 22 points, but only one point behind Everton in sixth — but because of the tragic death of their owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash outside of the King Power stadium a few weeks ago.
There’s an obvious sense that Leicester are devoting the rest of the season to Srivaddhanaprabha, the man who assembled the squad that won the Premier league in 2016. In fact, the Foxes are undefeated since the tragedy, with two wins and three draws against admittedly not stellar opposition. Saturday’s match against Tottenham will be their first real test since they lost at Arsenal in late October.
Claude Puel is in charge at the King Power, and has had a much better go of it in the East Midlands than he did while managing Southampton. Under Puel, Leicester are shoring up their defense while still committing to the fast-paced, counterattacking football that he is known for. Since 2016, Leicester have lost Ngolo Kante and Riyad Mahrez to bigger clubs, but speedy striker Jamie Vardy remains, and Puel has added players like Demarai Gray, James Maddison, and Kelechi Iheanacho. And of course, the back line is anchored by England World Cup hero Harry Maguire.
Puel’s tactics are pretty straightforward — a 4-2-3-1 formation that can transition to a 4-3-3 as needed, with a midfield pivot and wide attackers that like to cut inside. They are particularly dangerous on the counterattack with lots of speed, and can feast on fullbacks in wide positions who don’t get back defensively.
Vardy remains the Foxes’ primary offensive threat, with five goals and an assist this season, leading Leicester along with James Maddison. However, Vardy is injured and looks set to miss the Tottenham match, which means Iheanacho is likely to take his place in the starting lineup. Iheanacho is good, but he’s not providing the same offensive output as Vardy this season in close to the same amount of minutes. Iheanacho may be a better all-around striker than Vardy, but this season he hasn’t chipped in the goals.
Maddison has been the other break-out player for the Foxes. Signed this summer from Norwich City and deployed as a #10, he’s been at the center of Leicester’s attack. With Vardy out, Maddison will become even more important if they hope to knock off Spurs, as will Gray.
Leicester’s attack is solidly midtable — ninth in the league by xG — but their defense is pretty good. They’ve conceded 18 goals this season, which isn’t elite production but is just two more than Spurs have thus far. Maguire is coming back after a month out due to injury and is likely to be available alongside Jonny Evans. It’ll be Maguire’s job to contain his England teammate Harry Kane while Daniel Amartey and Ben Chilwell provide width on the flanks and spring counters.
Are Leicester a good team without Vardy? The jury’s still out. But they are a DANGEROUS team, without question. I don’t know about anyone else, but this match worries me.
How will Tottenham line up against Leicester?
Normally this would be a match where you might expect a little bit of rotation. After all, Spurs are playing Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Tuesday in a match they need to win to progress out of the Champions League group stage.
However, with the spate of injuries at the club, I’m not sure how much rotation Mauricio Pochettino can actually do. Foyth isn’t registered, so the back line almost picks itself — the only question is whether Trippier and Rose are healthy enough to rotate back in by then. If Poch doesn’t pull another tactical trick, I think Eric Dier keeps his place with Moussa Sissoko coming into the pivot for Harry Winks. Oliver Skipp didn’t play with Spurs’ U23s again today, so I suspect that means he’s on the bench at the King Power.
But not having Lamela is a loss, and I think it means that Spurs return to DESK — Dele, Eriksen, Son, Kane — in the forward attacking band. The Champions League is important, but with Spurs hanging on to third in the league by their fingernails, a win at Leicester is almost more so. I predict a lot of tired legs by mid-week.
That’s my predicted lineup for the match at Leicester City. What’s yours?