Leicester City v Liverpool: Vardy to score as top two strike sparks
World champions Liverpool face a test of their title credentials on Boxing Day, and Kevin Hatchard thinks the Foxes can give them a scare...
Leicester City v Liverpool Thursday December 26, 20:00 Live on Amazon Prime Video
Foxes keen to show they belong at the top
While Leicester City are a long way ahead of schedule in their rebuild under Brendan Rodgers, it's understandable that the manager still talks about lessons being learnt. The Foxes were given an education last time out against the champions Manchester City; despite taking the lead through the red-hot Jamie Vardy after a typically effective breakaway, they were comprehensively outplayed over the 90 minutes of a 3-1 defeat.
Rodgers now faces his old side Liverpool, a team he came so close to winning the Premier League title with in 2014. We'll never know what would've happened had the Reds held their nerve and won the league that season, but the subsequent success of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp has reinforced the idea that Rodgers' exit two seasons later was a necessary development.
The former Reading and Swansea boss has since made strides as he led Celtic to a slew of trophies, and his incredible work with Leicester City shows he is one of the top coaches in the country.
Of course it helps to have top players, and in Vardy, Rodgers has one of the best strikers in the Premier League. The 32-year-old's speed, his innate timing and his ice-cool finishing has seen him have a remarkable year in front of goal. Vardy has scored in nine of his last 11 appearances, he has 17 goals in the Premier League this season, and in 2019 he has found the net 29 times in the English top flight.
Liverpool on top of the world after glory-laden year
It says a lot about the selfless leadership and humility of Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson that he didn't want to lift the Champions League trophy alone in Madrid after the Reds vanquished Tottenham 2-0 in the final. The England international wanted manager Jurgen Klopp and veteran James Milner to share the glory, but both declined. Now Henderson has lifted the Club World Cup, and in 2020 he could become the first ever Liverpool skipper to lead his side to the Premier League title (it would be a first league title for the club since 1990.)
Liverpool were far from their best against South American champions Flamengo in Qatar, but they found a way to win, becoming only the second English side to be crowned as world champions. Their only defeats inside 90 minutes were against Napoli in the Champions League (they won their group anyway) and at Aston Villa in the League Cup (they took their senior squad to the Club World Cup and played their youngest ever team against Villa.)
Now Liverpool must test themselves against one of the league's best teams. In early October they beat the Foxes 2-1 at Anfield with a last-gasp penalty from Milner, and Opta tell us they are looking to win three straight Premier League away games at Leicester City for the first time ever. Midfielder Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain is out after damaging ankle ligaments against Flamengo, but Klopp has reported no further injury worries.
Liverpool a little too short for the win
At 2.18, Liverpool are clear favourites here, and given that they have only dropped two points in the league all season and have a 10-point advantage over Leicester you can see why. However, if you look at their away games in the Premier League, many of them have been tight. They have played eight times on the road in the top flight, and only two of their wins have been by more than one goal.
Leicester are unbeaten at home in the league this term, and they have won seven of their nine matches. They have beaten Arsenal and Spurs, and they have scored at least twice in seven of those nine outings.
Leicester pushed Liverpool to the limit at Anfield before succumbing at the last, and I think they can pick up a result here, even against such strong opposition. I'll back Home and Draw in the Double Chance market at 1.87.
Goals likely with top attacks on show
Opta tell us that the last seven Premier League meetings between these sides have seen both teams score, and I think that could well happen again. Liverpool have only kept two clean sheets in their last ten Premier League matches, and on their travels, they have managed shut-outs in three of their eight games. Liverpool have rattled in 42 league goals, and have scored in every match.
I'll back a Both Teams To Score/Over 2.5 Goals double here on the Sportsbook at 1.82.
Vardy impossible to ignore
Jamie Vardy's form makes him a consideration in the To Score market every time he plays, and because Leicester are outsiders for the game, he is an attractive 2.22 to find the net. The Opta stats show he has scored seven Premier League goals against Liverpool, and I think he can make it at least eight.