Leicester City-West Ham United Preview
On the bright side, Leicester City no longer have to deal with Liverpool. That may be better in the long run since catching the Premier League leaders also seems to be a bridge too far.
Their title hopes all but mathematically scuttled, the Foxes can turn their attention to fighting for a top-four finish starting with Saturday's contest at London Stadium versus West Ham United.
Though Leicester City (12-3-4) have done well in overachieving this term, the moment and opportunity to make a title race were clearly too big for them Boxing Day in a 4-0 defeat at home to Liverpool. The scoreline may look harsh because Leicester conceded thrice in the final 19 minutes, but it is an accurate reflection of the now 13-point chasm that separates the Midlands club from the Merseysiders, who completely suffocated Brendan Rodgers' side and refused to give them any space anywhere on the pitch.
"We just didn't play with enough quality and, with the ball, we gave the ball up way too cheaply, especially [in the] first half," Rodgers told LCFC TV. "When you do that against a good team, you invite pressure, but at 1-0, going into the second half, we're still in the game.
"We're then starting to build momentum but then we concede the penalty and at 2-0 then it becomes difficult for us and they then show their power and their strength and their quality."
Striker Jamie Vardy was starved of service, and playmaker James Maddison was rendered a non-factor by Liverpool's tireless midfield and staunch back line. The best chance came on a free kick in the 62nd minute drawn by Vardy, only for Maddison to fluff his lines and launch his effort well wide of the upper right 90 from the opposite elbow just beyond the penalty area.
Leicester City were one point better than Manchester City, who play Thursday, for second, and are still 10 points better than fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur in the race for the four Champions League spots. That appears to be a far more realistic target for Rodgers and the Foxes after being unable to prevent Liverpool from recording their 34th win during their 39-match unbeaten run.
"… Our last two games have been against the two outstanding teams in the Premier League," Rodgers noted. "They're great games for us to learn and develop in and we can't be disappointed for too long because we travel tomorrow (Friday) and play Saturday."
West Ham United (5-4-9) may be the perfect opponents at an opportune time for Leicester as they get drawn further into the relegation scrap for the second half of the campaign. The Irons are just above the drop in 17th place on 19 points and squandered away a chance to bank three vital points as they were overtaken by Crystal Palace 2-1 on Boxing Day at Selhurst Park.
Robert Snodgrass put Manuel Pellegrini's side ahead just before the hour, only to have Palace peg them back for an equaliser 11 minutes later. West Ham conceded again at the death, marking the fifth time this term they have scored the opening goal of the match and failed to see it through for all three points.
"When you are winning 1-0, of course you are disappointed after you lose the game 2-1," Pellegrini lamented post-match. "It was similar to the game we played with Crystal Palace at home, when we had the lead and they didn't create any chances and finally by the end they scored from two set pieces.
"Playing away, winning 1-0, I think we deserved a better result, but you must be concentrated in your defending until the last minute. … I don't know if it is mentality or a lack of concentration. When you are playing well, maybe you don't need to change, but many times we have had the lead in the score, but we were not able to keep it."
Pellegrini started Roberto between the sticks for this match, raising the possibility either No. 1 Lukasz Fabianski or David Martin will start this match as both are nearly 100 percent recovered from hip injuries. The Irons are winless in their last five at London Stadium (0-1-4), having shipped 12 goals in those contests.
The teams played to a pair of stalemates last season, including a 2-2 draw in the corresponding fixture in April when Harvey Barnes grabbed late leveler for the Foxes. Though West Ham are unbeaten in their last four against the Midlands side with a win and three draws, they are also 1-4-5 in the last 10 meetings overall and winless in the last four in the nation's capital (0-2-2) after winning eight of the previous nine in all competitions.
Updated December 26, 2019