As the international break comes to a welcome end, we can now turn our attention to the return of Premier League football this weekend.
Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City host Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United on Saturday with both sides in desperate need of a victory to spark their respective seasons into life.
The home side currently sit 13th and without a PL win since the end of August and the visitors are coming off the back of games against Everton and Villa that left a lot to be desired.
A Premier League clash that offers a rich history of exciting spectacles
This fixture is one that has a rich history of exciting spectacles including a 5-3 win in the Foxes return to the Premier League which incidentally is the last time they beat the Red Devils on their own turf in the top-flight.
Since their return to the PL, Leicester have been somewhat of an unknown entity, leaving managers such as Solskjær conflicted as to how to approach the game tactically and in respect of attacking intent.
Usually, a team in United’s predicament would tailor their methodology to play positively against inferior opposition and more conservatively if they are lining up against a side they perceive as their equal.
However, over recent seasons it has been difficult to ascertain where Rodgers’ men fit into that framework which is also applicable for managers before him such as Claude Puel, etc.
This factor works both ways and is what contributes to the excitement every time these two teams match up, as neither manager can say to any degree of certainty how the other will choose to set up.
Assessing both teams first 7 games
Starting with the home team, Leicester have experienced a disconcerting start to the season with injuries and subsequent fast-tracked signings causing the Foxes to appear uncharacteristically disorganised.
The brunt of their injury woes have been in the centre of defence, Jonny Evans struggling to make a full recovery from illness, as well as a foot injury that kept him out for large chunks of last season alongside Wesley Fofana who suffered a leg break in the preseason.
The young Frenchman had become a vital component to Rodgers’ defence, which problems have been further consolidated due to the partnership of Söyüncü and new signing Vestergaard struggling to find cohesion.
Another key part of Leicester’s defensive unit is holding midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi who has been ruled out for up to 5 weeks with a hamstring injury. The extent of this loss can’t be underestimated as the Nigerian is the engine in Rodgers’ system, acting as the catalyst for his team’s attacking work and the candidates for a worthy replacement run thin.
Rodgers can find solace in attack, however, as frontman Jamie Vardy has hit the ground running prior to facing a United defence that also has its fair share of injury problems.
Captain and former fox, Harry Maguire, was forced off the field during their loss to Aston Villa and hasn’t returned since, missing games against both Villareal and Everton.
To make matters worse Raphaël Varane, who had brought a distinctive ayre of composure to the Red Devils, limped off before half-time in France’s Nations League final victory over Spain on Sunday night.
The injuries to both players aren’t thought to be serious but their return dates are unknown as of yet, leading fans to speculate how Ole will line up if both of his first-choice centre-backs are forced to miss this weekend’s game.
The consensus amongst the United faithful so far this season is that the same issues regarding a style of play, or lack thereof, have been on display.
Considering recent results and the backing he received in the summer, it is vital that Ole not only gets back to winning ways but also that his team does so in a convincing manner, synonymous with the United of old.
A piece of positive injury news for Ole is the return of Marcus Rashford after having long-awaited surgery on his shoulder with reports suggesting the Englishman is in line to return to the squad as early as this weekend.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 13, 2021
Team News and Predicted Line-ups
Injuries: James Justin (knee), Jonny Evans (foot injury/illness), Wesley Fofana (broken leg), Wilfred Ndidi (hamstring).
Predicted Line-Up (3-5-2): Schmeichel (c), Vestergaard, Söyüncü, Castagne, Pereira, Choudhury, Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes, Vardy, Iheanacho
Injuries/Absences: Harry Maguire (calf), Raphaël Varane (unknown), Amad Diallo (thigh), Fred & Edinson Cavani (international duty).
Predicted Line-Up (4-2-3-1): De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Bailly, Shaw, McTominay, Pogba, Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford, Ronaldo.
A potential attacking four that would frighten any team let alone one with the defensive frailties of Leicester, but will Manchester United’s equally depleted backline be able to deal with the threat posed by the experienced Vardy, who has got fond memories of this fixture?
We’ll find out this weekend Saturday at 3pm.