Rodgers' year could end in pain as rested Liverpool threaten another rout

Leicester City host Jurgen Klopp's Reds with injuries and a fixture pile-up causing problems

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after the 6-3 defeat against Manchester City. Reuters

“It's a ridiculous schedule,” said Brendan Rodgers. Leicester must face the prospect of a second heavy defeat inside 55 hours on Tuesday. Arguably, however, their problem is not the calendar but the fixture and injury lists.

Fresh from losing 6-3 to Manchester City, they host Liverpool. “One of the best teams in the world,” added Rodgers. Another one.

Then there are the circumstances that meant City had a free midweek while Leicester were in League Cup action, going out on penalties to Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp had been an advocate of postponing the midweek round of matches: instead, Liverpool’s Boxing Day game against Leeds was called off, giving them a rest.

“This period clearly is a big advantage and it is just coincidence the context of these two games is probably one of the first weeks Manchester City have had off so they were fresh and ready for today and Liverpool haven't played since our cup game so they'll be able to bring players back in,” added Rodgers.

“That's what we have to deal with. It's a huge challenge for us but it's a challenge we're up for.”

Usually, he tends to rotate for the second game after Christmas. Not now. “We certainly won’t be able to do that,” said Rodgers. “Some of the players will have to go again.”

He is without his three best centre-backs, in Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu, with the latter duo both ruled out for three weeks. He is likely to be missing three full-backs, with James Justin a long-term absentee, Ricardo Pereira breaking a leg at Anfield last week and Ryan Bertrand hurt in the warm-up at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City 6 Leicester 3

Further forward, Harvey Barnes and Patson Daka are out. Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy were on the bench on Sunday. Rodgers did not feel either was able to feature. “Too big a risk,” he said. “Hopefully they'll be fine and recovered for Tuesday's game.”

But a momentous year in Leicester’s history threatens to end in undignified fashion. The FA Cup winners could enter January in the bottom half. December has already seen them knocked out of two competitions and they have conceded 16 goals. That tally seems certain to rise.

They may have memories of Liverpool’s 4-0 win at the King Power Stadium a couple of years ago. They were 4-0 down to City after 25 minutes. If the subsequent, James Maddison-inspired comeback showed the attacking talent in Leicester’s ranks, their much-changed, often weakened defence is a reason for their travails.

Only Newcastle, Norwich and Leeds have let in more goals. No one has been breached more often at set-pieces, with City’s fifth and sixth goals meaning Leicester have now let in 12. Rodgers has altered their defending at corners, but a blend of zonal and man-marking did not work at the Etihad Stadium.

Arguably, Leicester’s defence cost them last season. They finished fifth, conceding 14 more goals than fourth-place Chelsea. Now the top four have distanced themselves from Rodgers’ side. Their results, and the goals, in their meetings are a reason why.

The best have exploited Leicester’s soft underbelly. They have conceded 18 goals in six league games against the top seven. They have lost five of those six. As they beat each of the supposedly big six in last season’s Premier League, it shows how their fortunes have declined.

Now they have drawn 3-3 with Liverpool in the League Cup, albeit losing on penalties, and beaten City in the Community Shield but their only league victory in such matches was 4-2 against Manchester United, in self-destructive mode towards the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign.

Leicester have scored three goals in successive games against Liverpool and City. With or without Vardy, they still have firepower. But the last men standing at the back have to provide some kind of platform if Leicester’s 2021 is not to end in another rout.

Updated: December 27th 2021, 1:31 PM