Marco Silva is drinking in the last chance saloon as he takes his Everton side to Leicester City with his position as manager under extreme pressure.
Many expected Silva to be sacked after Saturday’s dismaying 2-0 home defeat to Norwich City, previously with just one point and as many goals on the road this season, but he has earned himself a reprieve at least until this match.
Silva could hardly have a harder task in front of him here, though, with Brendan Rodgers’ side flying in second place, having recorded their fifth successive victory in a 2-0 win at Brighton last weekend.
The Foxes are also among the league’s top scorers with 31 goals, while no individual player has netted more than Jamie Vardy’s 12. They also boast the division’s meanest defence, having conceded only eight times thus far.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, we spoke to Dylan Durbin, Foxes fan and writer for Read Leicester:
RBM: Firstly, by how much have Leicester exceeded your pre-season expectations so far this campaign?
Dylan: At the start of the season, I think there was a feeling that this team could compete for a top six place, but being in second going into December is more than anyone expected.
I think all Leicester fans would love Champion’s League nights to return to the King Power, so if they can hang on for a top four finish, fans would be thrilled.
RBM: Brendan Rodgers upset many Celtic fans when he left them for Leicester in February. Had he waited until the summer to move, though, do you think the Foxes would have done as well as they have so far this season?
Dylan: I think it was important to bring Brendan in before the end of the season. It gave him a few months to work out what our best team is and where he needed to strengthen in the summer. It also gave the players plenty of experience playing in the system Rodgers has built.
We saw an immediate improvement in performances and we also saw him bring the best out of players like Youri Tielemans. So, perhaps if we had waited until the summer Tielemans might not have joined the club permanently.
RBM: Is it fair to say that this Leicester team is actually better than Claudio Ranieri’s title-winners of 2015-16?
Dylan: I think that in terms of talent, you could definitely say that this is a better team overall, and at the same time is also a younger squad.
Six of our first XI are 23 years old or younger, so the potential of this side to improve even more is exciting as long as we can keep the team together.
RBM: Çağlar Söyüncü was relatively unknown before this season, but the centre-back has been integral to the meanest defence in the league. What kind of defender is he, and just how good is he?
Dylan: Söyüncü has been one of our best players this season, no doubt. He had some big boots to fill, but he quickly made everyone forget about Harry Maguire and has become a real fan favorite.
He seems to be the total package for a centre-back, he’s quick, strong, good in the air and reads the game very well. He also has great confidence on the ball, can pick out a pass and isn’t afraid of carrying the ball up the pitch.
RBM: At 32, Jamie Vardy shows no signs of ageing, with 12 goals already this term. Just how do you nullify him?
Dylan: It’s incredible how Vardy just doesn’t seem to slow down and we will hope it can last for a while longer. He really is the heart of Leicester City and his importance to the team is made clear whenever we’re without him.
As for nullifying him, you have to keep him in front of you and make him run at you with the ball. Give him any space in behind even once and you’re asking for trouble. He’s a player that defences always have to be switched on for or else he’ll punish them.
RBM: Where, if anywhere, do you think is Leicester’s biggest weakness currently?
Dylan: There are a couple of areas where we need improvement. There needs to be more consistency from the wingers; Ayoze Pérez and Harvey Barnes need to start contributing to goals more regularly or we’ll need to bring another wide man in.
We are also thin in depth at striker; an injury or suspension to Vardy and we’ll be in trouble. This has been an area that has needed addressing for about two seasons now, so hopefully there will be plans to bring in another forward in January.
RBM: How do you expect Leicester to set up on Sunday?
Dylan: Rodgers has named an unchanged team for the last five league games now and I don’t see that changing this week.
We should see the 4-1-4-1 once again, now with James Maddison seemingly settled into a central midfield role alongside Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi. Although, Demarai Gray has played well off of the bench recently and could force his way into the team should Rodgers want a change out wide.
RBM: Besides Vardy, which of Leicester’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
Dylan: I would say Maddison; he has continued his form from last season and looks to have improved all-round as a player. He is a chance-creating machine who can cause any defence problems, his link up with Vardy is one of Leicester’s most lethal routes of attack.
Then there is also his threat from set-pieces; Maddison scored three free-kicks last season and has one so far this season, the quality of his corner deliveries have also improved this season.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
Dylan: All signs going into the game point towards a Leicester win, but Everton have been opponents we have struggled against a lot in the past and Marco Silva will be fighting for his job, so I expect a tough match. I’ll go for a 2-1 Leicester win.
Our thanks to Dylan for his time.