It hasn’t been an easy defence of the Premier League title thus far for last season’s champions Leicester. A mere four wins from their 17 Premier League matches so far sees the team who topped the table this time 12 months ago occupy 15th place going into this year’s Boxing Day match-up with Everton. The Foxes however hold an imperious home record despite their current strife, having only suffered defeat once in 23 Premier League games at the King Power.
Despite sitting six places above the Foxes in 9th place, Everton are in the midst of a rocky spell of their own, and having suffered defeat in their last four games away in the Premier League, they need to turn that form around against the champions if they are to remain in touch with top-six going into the New Year.
They have won a mere four out of their 17 Premier League games so far, but despite Leicester’s faltering defence of the title, they have picked up form a little of late. They are unbeaten in three of their previous six (W1, D2, L3), having won a superb game against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City before rallying from two goals down with ten men to draw 2-2 in dramatic fashion at Stoke.
Leicester do have an impressive home record that they are able to rely on however. They have only suffered defeat once at the King Power in 23 league matches, and there are plenty of goals in these games too, with over 2.5 goals scored in six of Leicester’s last seven home league games.
Leicester have also played out high scoring affairs against the Toffees of late, with 2.5 goals at least going in, in their last 4 matches against Everton in all competitions, at least two goals going in the Foxes’ favour in two of those four encounters. The last match-up between the two came on probably the finest day of Leicester’s history, as they hit three in just over half an hour on the way to a 3-1 triumph before being presented with the Premier League trophy, after Spurs’ failure to win at Chelsea in the week confirmed the Foxes would finish as champions.
The hosts do have a tendency to leak goals this season though, and that is something Ronald Koeman’s men may well look to exploit against Claudio Ranieri’s team. The Foxes have conceded at least two goals in six of their last seven in the league, but they have found the Toffees favourable opposition of late, having not suffered defeat at home against the Merseysiders in any of the last seven encounters played out in the East Midlands.
Everton go into the game also on a run of just one win in six, and after the manner of their late defeat in the Merseyside Derby last time out, it is clear that January can’t come early enough for Ronald Koeman and the side are taking points where they can until they have an opportunity to truly strengthen.
Claudio Ranieri will be forced to shake-up his defence with Christian Fuchs and Robert Huth both missing through suspension. Luis Hernandez is the likely candidate to come in at centre-back to partner Wes Morgan, with Ben Chilwell stepping into the void at left-back.
Following the failure of Leicester’s appeal to have Jamie Vardy’s red card against Stoke overturned, he begins a suspension so Shinji Okazaki should come in to partner club record signing Islam Slimani in the Yorkshireman’s stead.
Danny Drinkwater has missed Leicester’s last four matches through suspension and injury, so Daniel Amartey and Andy King are the favourites to feature in midfield. Demarai Gray is likely to remain on the bench as an impact sub despite coming on to great effect against Stoke, with Marc Albrighton starting on the left flank.
Everton can once more call upon Phil Jagielka after he served a one-match ban by sitting out the Merseyside Derby defeat to Liverpool. Maarten Stekelenburg and James McCarthy were both forced off with injuries during that defeat, so Joel Robles and Gareth Barry are favourites to continue in their stead.
Koeman is expected to tinker with the side that started against Liverpool. Ross Barkley is likely to keep his place, but Aaron Lennon is expected to miss out in favour of on-loan West Ham man Enner Valencia.
Leicester City predicted starting XI Everton predicted starting XI
Christian Fuchs and Robert Huth both picked up their fifth bookings of the campaign at Stoke last time out and will therefore sit-out of Everton’s visit to the King Power. Jamie Vardy is another notable absentee, after Leicester’s appeal to overturn his red card at Stoke was rejected by the FA. Midfielder Danny Drinkwater has missed the Foxes’ last four games through a mixture of suspension and injury, and remains doubtful for the visit of the Toffees.
For Everton, Ronald Koeman is also still without Muhamed Besic, Matthew Pennington and Yannick Bolasie, while Arouna Koné is a doubt. James McCarthy is out after picking up an injury against Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby, and first-choice shot-stopper Maarten Stekelenburg, who was also forced off against the Reds, is rated doubtful.
Leicester showed immense character last time out to fight back from 2-0 down and salvage a point at Stoke despite being down to 10 men for more than an hour. Claudio Ranieri will no doubt call upon that fighting spirit once more as Leicester bid to kickstart their league campaign again, and another home game should help after their crucial win over Manchester City at the King Power the last time they played at home.
The manner of Everton’s defeat to Merseyside rivals Liverpool will have been difficult to take for Ronald Koeman’s side, but having now lost their first home league game of the season and first since March, they now need to focus on turning around their barren away form, starting with the visit to champions Leicester.
Everton have however lost five of their last six on the road in the Premier League, and despite key suspensions for both teams, statistics suggest that there could be more festive misery in line for Everton here. With both teams shaky at the back this term however, we expect there to be goals in this one. Our call is a repeat of the last match at the King Power and a scoreline of Leicester City 4-2 Everton.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Alex Hannam.