Liverpool lock horns with Premier League champions Leicester City this weekend as both teams look to record their second victories of the 2016/17 campaign (5.30pm Saturday on BT Sport 1).
Jurgen Klopp’s men have taken four points from their opening three fixtures after beating Arsenal, losing to Burnley and drawing with Tottenham Hotspur. They have yet to shake off the inconsistency that plagued them last term, when Liverpool finished in eighth place in the top flight. There are still plenty of reasons for optimism as the Reds attempt to secure a spot in the top four and seal a return to the Champions League. They will have to show more guile and invention against Leicester than they did in the loss to Burnley, though. Liverpool were unable to break down a stubborn defensive unit despite having the vast majority of the ball at Turf Moor, and Leicester are likely to play in a similar way this weekend.
Leicester have responded well to their surprise defeat by Hull City on the opening day, drawing 0-0 with Arsenal and triumphing 2-1 against Swansea City last time out. Claudio Ranieri’s men may have half an eye on their upcoming Champions League debut in a few days’ time. The Foxes take on Club Brugge on Wednesday night, but will need to remain focused on the task in hand when they travel to Merseyside. Leicester lost 1-0 at Anfield on Boxing Day in 2015/16, when Liverpool’s pressing meant they could not get up the pitch enough to do the hosts damage, and they will therefore be looking to make amends on Saturday.
Liverpool will have to make do without Loris Karius (hand), Joe Gomez (calf), Sheyi Ojo (back) and Mamadou Sakho (calf) for this weekend’s encounter at Anfield. Emre Can, Sadio Mane and Ragnar Klavan should all be available for selection after shaking off various injuries. Daniel Sturridge was selected among the substitutes against Spurs last time out after Klopp seemed to suggest the England international does not fully understand the role he asks his strikers to assume. Roberto Firmino will probably continue up top with the license to drop deep and drift wide. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are expected to play alongside one another at centre-half. James Milner, looks set to continue in the unfamiliar position of left-back, with Alberto Moreno seemingly out of favour.
As for Leicester, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel faces a race against time to be involved against Liverpool after undergoing a hernia operation last week. Papy Mendy and Jeff Schlupp are also battling to be fit enough to take part. Shinji Okazaki turned in impressive performances against both Arsenal and Swansea but Ranieri may opt to pair Jamie Vardy with Ahmed Musa to give his team an extra source of pace in forward areas. New signing Islam Slimani, who joined the Foxes from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of £29.7m, is likely to begin the match on the substitutes’ bench. Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray will be competing for the starting spot on the left flank. Daniel Amartey could continue in the centre of midfield after a fine display in the win over Swansea.
When it comes to this preview’s betting tips, Liverpool may just have the edge, and it could be worth backing them to pick up a 2-1 win in front of their own fans. The Reds are unlikely to keep a clean sheet given their defensive troubles so far this term. Their attacking firepower – of which Philippe Coutinho (pictured), who could find the net before anyone else, is a major part – should be enough for them to secure all three points.