January brings great proof of Leicester’s Champions League credentials

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It’s easy to forget that before the season began, the atmosphere at Leicester City was far from triumphant.

Their incredible capitulation in the second half of the 2019/20 campaign, in which they gave up an ‘unassailable’ lead and fell out of the top four on the final day, was still fresh in the minds of fans while their commitments were awaited. of the Europa League. hamper your domestic way.

Fast forward to the present and after 17 games, Leicester is just one point away from beating Liverpool and only six worse than at this stage last season.

Youri Tielemans, Wesley Fofana
Leicester has impressed with its start to the season | Michael Regan / Getty Images

However, this is a very League different from last season. By this time last year, Liverpool, Leicester and Manchester City had already built up a considerable cushion on the teams below them. This time, 10th-ranked West Ham are just seven points behind first, with all teams above them harboring title ambitions of varying viability.

Good news for fans of an easier to follow Premier League narrative, the next few weeks should see the table slowly start to look like its final form. It’s not clear where Leicester will end up, but they can make a statement of their top four ambitions during an action-packed month.

After facing Stoke City in the FA Cup on Saturday, in what broadcasters should call the Robert Huth derby, the Foxes host sixth-placed Southampton and ninth-placed Chelsea in a row. They then travel to seventh-ranked Everton before their January comes to an end with a visit from Leeds.

The first trio of games occurs against teams that are only a few points away from them. Therefore, the rewards for achieving three victories, or even simply avoiding defeat, would be generous. But the Foxes will need to improve on their less-than-impressive home record.

Of his five losses this season, four have come at home. The key problem in the losses to West Ham, Aston Villa, Fulham and Everton was their inability to create chances. Villa aside, the Foxes enjoyed over 60% possession in all of these encounters, but were unable to break their opponents’ low blocks after falling behind.

In this sense, Leicester can feel quite confident about their home games this month. It’s hard to imagine Southampton or Leeds traveling to King Power Stadium and deploying these kinds of defensive tactics.

Wilfred Ndidi, Miguel Almiron
Wilfred Ndidi’s return to form has been a gem to behold this season | Pool / Getty Images

The high pressure displayed by the pair is likely to leave plenty of room for Leicester to explode if they can force turnovers, which they have done as effectively as any Premier League team this season, ranking in the top five in terms of more tackles and interceptions.

In full flow, his counterattack is one of the most attractive in Europe with the rhythm of Harvey Barnes and James Justin, combined with the cunning of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans making an irresistible match. Leicester have already subjected Leeds to a dominant 4-1 loss this season and there is little reason they cannot show the same transitional threat later this month.

As for Chelsea, well, they’re just not playing very well, are they? It might sound crazy considering how much Frank Lampard spent in the summer, but in its current form, a trio of Ndidi, Maddison and Tielemans seems far more attractive than the midfield madness group the Blues have subjected us to in recent weeks.

Everton provided probably the most severe test of all this month. Having beaten Leicester once this season, Carlo Ancelotti will be sure to repeat the trick, but the Foxes shouldn’t be afraid. As poor as his home record has been, his brilliant road form has made up for it.

No team has won more points away from home than they this season (22) and their only loss away from home was to leaders Liverpool. His fantastic record has also included some famous scalps, with Manchester City, Tottenham, Leeds and Arsenal surpassed on his travels.

If you’re still not convinced that January will be a season-defining month for Leicester, the news that Ricardo Pereira is returning to imminent full form should suffice.

Jamie Vardy and James Maddison
Leicester could avenge the ghosts of last season by securing Champions League qualification | Michael Regan / Getty Images

The flying right-back has built a reputation as one of the best right-backs in the world since arriving in the East Midlands in 2018 and having him fit and shooting will add to Leicester’s already potent threat at the counter.

Last season, the beginning of 2020 was when the Foxes’ season wheels collapsed. This time around, it has the potential to be the period where your Champions League load begins to pick up speed.

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