Two teams with ambitions of a top-seven finish will do battle on Saturday afternoon, when Leicester City welcome Everton to the King Power Stadium.
Both sides have had shakey starts to the Premier League season, but there is reason to believe that Claude Puel’s men will emerge victorious in front of their own supporters this weekend.
The Foxes were 2-0 winners at Newcastle United last time out, with goals from Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire either side of half-time making the difference at St James’ Park. It was the ninth consecutive Premier League game in which Leicester found the back of the net, a run which stretches back to the tail end of 2017/18.
This term alone they have struck 13 times, a tally bettered only by the current top five of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Those are particularly impressive figures when you remember that the East Midlands outfit lost their best attacker in the summer when Riyad Mahrez moved to the Etihad Stadium.
It was a club-record sale which forced Puel to reconfigure his forward line ahead of his first full season at the helm. James Maddison has hitherto looked like a brilliant replacement for the Algeria international, having scored three goals and provided two assists in his seven league appearances for the club so far.
The former Norwich City man is available at 11/5 with Karamba to score at anytime this weekend, having done most of his best work this season in a No.10 role, where his creativity and invention can do the most damage to opponents.
Vardy’s speed in behind forces backlines to drop back and in turn opens up space in between the lines for Maddison, who is afforded protection by the sturdy presence of Papy Mendy and Wilfried Ndidi behind him in midfield.
Two clean sheets in seven matches shows that Leicester can still be vulnerable at the other end of the field, but they are the type of team who will back themselves to outscore any opponent outside of the big six.
Everton were also triumphant last weekend, easing past Fulham 3-0 to climb up to 11th place in the table. It was a much-needed victory for Marco Silva’s side following back-to-back defeats by West Ham United and Arsenal, the latter of which they were unfortunate to lose after turning in an excellent all-round performance at the Emirates Stadium.
The Toffees are still finding their feet under Silva, who is a very different type of manager to his predecessor Sam Allardyce, and they are yet to sort out their away form: four road trips in 2018/19 have brought just two points from a possible 12, while the Merseysiders have now won just three times on their travels in their last 30 attempts dating back to February 2017 - when Ronald Koeman was the man in the dugout.
Such a poor set of results over a prolonged period of time hints at some sort of issue with the group’s collective mentality, and it may take Silva a few more months to inspire an upturn in that regard.
Indeed, the former Hull City and Watford boss has only recently settled on a favoured system and starting XI, keeping faith with the same team which lost at Arsenal for the subsequent game against Fulham at home.
A midfield pairing of Idrissa Gueye and Tom Davies offers plenty of energy and dynamism but not a great deal of creativity, while Gylfi Sigurdsson has always been more effective at fashioning opportunities from set-pieces than in open play.
Everton will therefore depend heavily on wide men Richarlison and Theo Walcott for attacking inspiration, but Leicester have plenty of pace at full-back in Ricardo Pereira (who has at times been deployed further forward since his arrival in the summer) and Ben Chilwell, so they should be able to nullify the Toffees’ threat on the flanks.
Everton’s clean sheet against Fulham was their first of the campaign and it is difficult to see their defensive unit being able to halt Leicester’s attack this weekend. Consequently, 888Sport offers 43/20 on Everton failing to score.
The Foxes have won two of their three encounters at the King Power in 2018/19 and performed well in the other, pushing Liverpool all the way in a slender 2-1 loss which could easily have ended in a draw on another day.
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