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Everton at Leicester City: The Opposition View

We spoke to Foxes blogger Matt Cook prior to Saturday’s clash at the King Power Stadium

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League
Everton suffered a 2-0 defeat at the Foxes last season
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Everton will attempt to bounce back from their midweek EFL Cup exit to Southampton when they travel to Leicester City on Saturday.

Claude Puel’s side have started this campaign brightly, sitting eighth after four wins from their first seven games.

The Blues’ record at the King Power Stadium hardly inspires confidence; they suffered a 2-0 defeat there last season, and a victory by the same scoreline in December 2016 is their only triumph in five visits to the ground since it opened in 2002.

Jamie Vardy, with three goals to his name this season, will look to maintain his excellent form against the Toffees; the former England international has four strikes in as many games against Everton thanks to the Blues plodding backline.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, RBM spoke to Matt Cook (@TheRumFish), writer for SB Nation’s Leicester blog, Fosse Posse, about his team’s season so far, and his expectations of Everton’s trip to the East Midlands:

RBM: Firstly, how would you judge Leicester’s season so far?

Matt: I think the season has gone pretty well so far. We’ve made it to the round of 16 in the League Cup, our only home loss was to Liverpool so far, and apart from the thrashing AFC Bournemouth gave us, we’ve been in every game.

RBM: Claude Puel began his Leicester reign almost a year ago with a 2-0 home win against Everton, but opinion still seems split on the Frenchman.

After finishing ninth last season and a solid start to this campaign, has criticism of Puel been unfair?

Matt: Overall I think the criticism of Puel has been unfair. I think he is doing what the owners initially wanted Claudio Ranieri to do - build a squad up with a mixture of youth and experience and try and become a consistent fighter for spots in Europe.

Obviously no-one is complaining about the outcome of Claudio’s reign, but the aftermath left them a little lost and I think they’re finally on course.

Newcastle United v Leicester City - Premier League
The jury remains out on Puel for some Leicester fans
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

RBM: After the euphoria of winning the Premier League and reaching the Champions League quarter-finals, have the last 18 months felt underwhelming as a Leicester fan?

Matt: I’m not a fan of using the “big club” or “small club” labelling for teams, but I think we’ve all seen in the last 18 months about what happens when a team that doesn’t have the resources of a Manchester City or Chelsea and goes and wins a title out of the blue.

The last 18 months have been just a rebuilding phase and with that have come some growing pains. When they [Leicester] first started playing with the ball it was just atrocious to watch at times, but now I think they’re finally hitting their stride.

RBM: Riyad Mahrez was such an integral part of Leicester’ title-winning side in 2015/16. Following his £60 million summer transfer to Manchester City, how badly do you think the Foxes are missing him?

Matt: Personally I don’t think we’re missing him much because for quite some time we didn’t really get anything out of him. He’d go through the motions and show up every now and again with some magic, but you could just tell his heart wasn’t in it.

He resurged shortly under Puel at the beginning, but I think that was just to build himself up for the January transfer window. While I miss Mahrez and what he can do, he needed to go because he dragged everyone down with him.

RBM: The £20 million fee paid for James Maddison in June looked debatable for a player with no experience higher than the Championship, but he’s started this season brilliantly with three goals already. Is he ready for his England call-up?

Matt: James Maddison has been an amazing signing and just what the team needed. I’m glad he got called up and hope he gets a real go at a game. Just come back healthy!

Leicester City v Huddersfield Town - Premier League
Maddison’s transition to the top-flight has been seamless
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

RBM: Marco Silva opts for a much expansive, open style of play than last year’s rigid setup under Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce. Do you think that will suit Leicester better?

Matt: My biggest fear is another Theo Walcott show. He tore us up last year, and with the extra danger Richarlison brings, I think it’ll be an exciting match to watch. Both sides have creative number tens, so the midfield will be a battle as well. I think it’ll ultimately come down to whose defence breaks last.

RBM: How do you expect Leicester to set up on Saturday?

Matt: I think Leicester [will] set up in a 4-4-1-1 and bring Shinji Okazaki and Marc Albrighton back into the team to try and combat your midfield.

RBM: Which of Leicester’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Matt: Jamie Vardy hasn’t really clicked into form yet, but is still a danger man. I’m not sure who will start on the wing, but Ricardo [Pereira] and Rachid Ghezzal can be very dangerous on their day.

If James Maddison has the time and space he is a threat as well. I’m just praying Wilfred Ndidi finally breaks his duck and gets a goal.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Matt: I put this down for a draw in our Fosse Posse match preview and I’m sticking with it. We’ve played out to a 2-2 draw a couple of times since we’ve been back in the Premier League and I think we’ll do just that once more on Saturday.

Our thanks to Matt for his time.