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Leicester City

Liverpool 2-1 Leicester City: Three talking points from Anfield

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Mohamed Salah produced another inspired performance as Liverpool came from behind to beat Leicester City. Jamie Vardy had stunned Anfield with a shock third-minute goal, but the irresistible Egyptian scored twice in the second half – taking his Premier League tally for the season to 17 – to extend Liverpool’s unbeaten run to 15 matches.

Victory keeps the Reds in fourth spot but they are now only three points behind third-place Manchester United, who could only play out a goalless draw with Southampton. Leicester, meanwhile, remain eighth despite their third defeat in four outings. Here are three talking points.

Salah is Liverpool’s saviour yet again

Such has been their form of late that it would have come as quite a shock to the Anfield faithful when their team went into half-time a goal behind. When they needed someone to stand up and be counted in the second period, it was no surprise that Salah, arguably the signing of the summer window, made himself known.

He has been directly involved in 22 goals this season and his vital brace ensured there was no setback in the hosts’ quest for a top-four position. Jurgen Klopp was delighted with his side’s performance and, in particular, the way in which they responded to falling a goal behind.

They remained patient despite having spurned numerous chances before Salah eventually made the breakthrough. The only negative was seeing the former Chelsea and Roma man limp off in the closing stages. In such a congested period of the season, the Liverpool manager will hope he can recover in time for their New Year’s Day fixture with Burnley.

Leicester defeated, but not disheartened

After making a barnstorming start to Claude Puel’s reign, Leicester have stalled somewhat in recent weeks. It’s now four games without a win for the Foxes, with this their second consecutive 2-1 loss. Vardy’s ninth goal of the season was the perfect start and, after getting to the interval unscathed, the visiting supporters would have begun to wonder if it was their day.

Alas, it was not to be, as Salah had the decisive say and Leicester’s fruitless run continued. There is no reason for Puel to be alarmed, though. He would have been bitterly disappointed with the defeat away to Watford on Boxing Day, which came just days after they had staged a remarkable comeback to draw with Manchester United.

But they were always up against it here, against a free-scoring Liverpool side that are in perfect harmony right now. In all honestly, Leicester are a mid-table outfit and their current position of eighth feels about right. Most importantly, thanks to Puel, the threat of relegation has vanished and they can look to the future with optimism.

Defensive duo under the spotlight

With Liverpool having announced that Virgil van Dijk is to join the club officially from Southampton on January 1, all eyes were on Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip in the heart of defence. One of them is expected to make way in order to accommodate the Dutchman, whose £75 million transfer is a world-record fee for a defender.

But if either player felt under pressure to perform, he didn’t show it. Defensive errors have undermined Liverpool at times this season, particularly in the Champions League where they have frittered away leads. But both Lovren and Matip looked relatively comfortable throughout and, after Vardy’s opener, they kept Leicester at bay.

The arrival of long-term target Van Dijk, who maintained a watching brief for the game, will shore up the back line and could even have a galvanising effect on his fellow defenders. The increased competition for places was just what Klopp wanted, with Liverpool hoping to fight on three fronts for the remainder of the campaign.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Leicester City

West Ham and Leicester should pounce for Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri

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Photo: Getty Images.

One player certain to be on the move this summer is Stoke City midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, who will put an end to an unhappy spell at the bet365 Stadium, but could still stay in the Premier League to West Ham or Leicester.

Sky Bet offer odds as low as 1/10 that Shaqiri will depart this summer, with West Ham the leading Premier League club in the betting at 8/1 and Leicester City not far behind at 10/1.

That’s not to say that a stay in England is certain, particularly given that the two Milan clubs are favourites with Inter at 6/1 and AC Milan at 13/2, with Lyon also in the running at 8/1 level with the Hammers.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The winger has not hidden his disappointment with the team’s struggles this season and the Potters now face an uphill battle if they are to avoid relegation from the top flight.

The Swiss international will not entertain the idea of playing second tier football after a decorated career has previously seen him play for the likes of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

Having failed to live up to expectations since Mark Hughes brought him to England in 2015, he may be keen to make the move abroad, but with finances likely to be more attractive to remain in the Premier League he may not rule out such a move.

Leicester could be forced to sign a replacement for Riyahd Mahrez whilst West Ham will also be looking for options out wide when Joao Mario’s loan spell comes to an end.

His pace, power and strength could catch the eye of both sides but they will have their work cut out to convince him to remain in England this summer.

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Leicester City

Tottenham would be the perfect move for Leicester star Demarai Gray

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Photo: Getty Images

Having failed in their bid to bring Demarai Gray to Wembley for the 2017/18 season, Tottenham could be reigniting the interest in the hope of signing the young winger ahead of their move to New White Hart Lane.

Reports originating from ESPN say that Spurs are looking to sign the England under 21 captain after Leicester City refused to do business for the former Birmingham man in the past.

Gray’s form has not been as convincing as some may have hoped for this season, with just four goals and three assists from 39 appearances in all competitions, but that has not put Daniel Levy and company off.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Demarai Gray has found his game time limited of late, despite only missing three Premier League games to date this season. Since the turn of the year, the winger has made only four starts for the Foxes and may relish an opportunity to be trusted more regularly, particularly at a club like Tottenham.

Working under Mauricio Pochettino would undoubtedly be a huge draw given his reputation for developing young players. That is believed to be key to his interest in Gray, who could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Eric Dier and Dele Alli in joining the club and going on to become regulars in the Premier League and for England.

Leicester will not be keen to part ways with one of their most exciting young talents and will command a huge price, which may put Levy off, but there are few English players in his age range with such potential and if anyone could justify such a fee, it may well be Gray.

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17 goals in 32 games: Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy better now than title-winning season

The Englishman’s fine form has gone somewhat under the radar this season.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Jamie Vardy was a late developer, but he has emerged as one of the best strikers in the Premier League since Leicester City were promoted to the division.

His best season came when the Foxes sprung a surprise to win the league title during the 2015/16 campaign.

It would have been easy for the striker to trail off after that incredible year, but he has continued to work hard and is going into this summer’s World Cup as England’s form striker.

Considering Leicester are finishing the season with a stutter, the performances and consistency of Vardy have gone under the radar, but he deserves a lot of credit for his excellent goal-scoring campaign.

In 32 Premier League matches, he has scored 17 goals at a rate of one every 165.2 minutes. It is impressive for any striker to score as regularly as that and the 31-year-old will feel that he is at the peak of his powers.

Leicester have lost three of their last four matches and that has meant that the focus hasn’t been on the team. However, Vardy continues to deliver the goods in the final third, having scored in each of the Foxes’ last five matches.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

The England international currently has the record for scoring in the most consecutive Premier League matches scored. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he has managed to hit another hot streak.

It can even be argued that Vardy has improved since Leicester’s league-winning season, especially when it comes to the mental side of the game.

He has become a more intelligent player and that is evident through his positioning and anticipation in the final third.

The 31-year-old gets a lot of chances from being in the right place in the right time, whereas during the 2015-16 campaign, the majority of his goals were carbon copies of each other. There would be a long ball over the top and his pace would give him the chance. Now, he is a much more complete player.

In addition to improving the mental side of his game, Vardy has become a more clinical finisher as shown by his sharp increase in chance conversion.

During the incredible title-winning season, the striker had a chance conversion rate of 20.9%. This campaign, it stands at a very respectable 28.8%. This is due to the striker gaining more experience and knowing how to take the chances that come his way.

Michael Owen once said that the Leicester City man wasn’t a natural finisher. That is no longer the case.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

The stats also show a style-shift in Vardy, as he averages only 0.39 ball recoveries per ninety minutes, as opposed to the impressive 1.47 that he managed during the excellent season of two years ago.

This suggests that the striker realises that his body can no longer go as it once could and he is decreasing his overall workload due to this. As a result, he can focus on taking up dangerous positions and scoring goals.

Although Vardy is not likely to surpass his 2015/16 total of 24 goals, it can be argued that this season is just as impressive. He is playing in a mid-table side and has shown an improvement in his finishing, which was already at a high level during the title-winning campaign.

The Foxes front-man knows that he won’t get as many chances to score as he did back then, but he is making sure that he makes the most of them.

England will favour Harry Kane this summer in Russia, but the Leicester City forward will have a big role to play for the Three Lions. His form this season shouldn’t be ignored.

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