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Can Everton tame Claudio’s champions?

Toffees take on the Foxes at the King Power Stadium

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Season’s greetings to you all from everyone here at RBM; I hope Santa delivered all that you desired on Christmas morning.

I also hope, like me, you’ve found the festive season a timely distraction from goings on at Goodison Park.

Everton’s already infuriating season took another cruel twist against Liverpool last week, even if the defeat was grimly inevitable given their recent derby record.

What proved more concerning was the lack of any real plan, besides from running around a lot.

The Blues successfully managed to pin Liverpool back for the opening 25 minutes. But once they began to tire had no real alternative strategy, besides punting it clear and hoping for the best.

I’m sure Ronald Koeman has a vision of what how he wants his team to perform, but it is clearly not with this set of players.

The transfer window is eagerly awaited to allow Koeman the opportunity to not only bring players in, but also ship a fair few out.

The rumour mill is already in full swing with Everton rumoured to be in for up to half a dozen players. Meaning January could well one of the Toffees’ busiest ever transfer windows.

In the meantime however there are two more matches to play in 2016, starting with the champions.

The King Power Stadium played host to memorable celebrations back in May as Leicester lifted the Premier League trophy to become one of football’s most unlikely title winners.

Everton played a key role that day, namely as limp cannon fodder. With the Roberto Martinez era entering its final days Everton barely put up a fight as the Foxes came away with a 3-0 victory to kick-off their celebrations in style.

It can be argued therefore that things cannot be any worse on Boxing Day than they were seven months ago. Though the team’s recent wretched form (Arsenal aside) suggests things won’t improve significantly.

The opposition

Retaining the trophy they won so memorably won in May was always going to be a tough challenge for Leicester.

Everything that clicked into place so perfectly during the 2015-16 campaign has proven a disruption this time around.

Injuries, loss of form and the resurgence of more established rivals means the Foxes have been unable to replicate the form that saw them romp to the title by 10 points.

The loss of the N’Golo Kante to Chelsea over the summer deprived Leicester of a key cog in their title-winning machine

Despite Kante’s departure Ranieri still strengthened the squad elsewhere, bringing in the likes of Nampalys Mendy, Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani.

Things haven’t quite clicked however and the club go into the Everton game in 15th place just three points above the drop zone.

Their Champions League excursions have also been a factor. Though their serene progression through to last-16 has proven the high point of a difficult campaign to date and highlights what the team is still capable of.

Picking up points away from the King Power has been Leicester’s main problem. Ranieri’s side have collected just two points on the road so far. Contrast that with their home form, which has seen the Foxes lose just once in eight league games.

Those home results are what’s keeping Leicester out of trouble. Supporters busy opening books and DVDs about their title win on Christmas morning are nervously hoping there won’t be a grim sequel about relegation in their stocking in 12 months time.

Team news

Everton will be without James McCarthy after the midfielder suffered yet another hamstring injury during Monday’s Merseyside derby.

Maarten Stekelenburg will be assessed after being forced off during the same game with a dead leg.

Leicester will be without the suspended Jamie Vardy, Roberto Huth and Christian Fuchs.

Danny Drinkwater will undergo a late fitness test on a hamstring injury.

Final word

Leicester certainly aren’t the force they were last season but remain a formidable side to play on their own patch – as Man City found to their cost earlier this month.

Everton meanwhile just need the transfer window to open, meaning anything they claim in the final two games of the year must be considered a bonus.

Predicted starting XI: Robles, Baines, Williams, Funes Mori, Coleman, Gueye, Barry, Valencia, Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku.