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Everton vs Leicester City: The Opposition View

We spoke to Foxes fan and writer Jake Lawson prior to Wednesday’s clash at Goodison Park

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League
Everton won 2-0 at Leicester in last month’s reverse fixture
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Everton play their first Premier League game in more than two weeks when they host Leicester City on Wednesday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side’s last league match was a 2-1 win at Wolves on January 12, before they beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the FA Cup on Sunday.

And they will be after a league double over the Foxes, having won the reverse fixture at the King Power Stadium 2-0 last month.

Brendan Rodgers’ side sit third, six points clear of Everton but having played two games more than them.

Ahead of Wednesday’s game, we spoke to Jake Lawson, Foxes fan and writer for SB Nation’s dedicated Leicester site, Fosse Posse:

RBM: Firstly, Jamie Vardy is undergoing hernia surgery, so will miss this game. At 34, is he still as crucial to Leicester as he’s ever been?

Jake: He’s our talisman. He sets the tone for the team, the one who’ll drag the rest of the squad forward with him.

He’s absolutely as crucial as ever and I can’t even contemplate life after Vardy. You simply can’t replace a player like him because there just aren’t any players like him, if that makes any sense.

Leicester City v Southampton - Premier League
Vardy will miss Wednesday’s game through injury
Photo by Rui Vieira - Pool/Getty Images

RBM: Since losing to Everton last month, Leicester have won four and drawn two of their six league games. Where have they improved most lately?

Jake: This one’s easy. The return of one Wilfred Ndidi makes Leicester a completely different side. Not only does he help the defence, but his presence allows Youri Tielemans to get forward and have more influence on the match.

RBM: Leicester have won seven, drawn one and lost only one away - to Liverpool - in the league this season. What do you think is behind their better form on the road?

Jake: I think it’s just a statistical fluke. Other than you, we haven’t faced a top six side at home so I can’t blame it on the schedule.

I do think this year offers a fascinating insight into why clubs generally have an advantage at home. It seems clear that having fans in the stands is a key factor: whether it’s the energy they bring or their influence on the referee, it’s important. Simply playing on your home turf and sleeping in your own bed doesn’t seem to figure into it.

Leicester have been superb on the road this term, including in their 5-2 win at Man City in September
Photo by MARTIN RICKETT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

RBM: Leicester have yet to sign anyone in this month’s transfer window. Should they be looking to strengthen before Monday’s deadline, and if so, where?

Jake: We should. Attacking midfielder Dennis Praet is going to be out for some time and some cover for James Maddison and Tielemans would be welcome.

Given the financial realities of this strange season, I don’t expect anything will materialise unless it’s a short-term loan on favourable terms.

RBM: What would constitute a successful season for Leicester?

Jake: A top four finish would be tremendous progress, as would be winning the FA Cup for the first time.

The Europa League is probably a bridge too far for this year, but Leicester are evidence that stranger things can happen.

Leicester City Training Session
Leicester are still fighting on three fronts under Brendan Rodgers this season
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

RBM: With Leicester still in both the Europa League and FA Cup, would you prioritise winning a trophy over finishing in at least the top four?

Jake: Top four has to be the goal and anything else would be icing on that cake.

I have to think we’re more likely to qualify for the Champions League through league position than through winning the Europa League. There’s just too much money to be gained from qualification for any other goal to take precedence.

RBM: Which areas of the pitch should Everton look to exploit?

Jake: Our issues dealing with set pieces are well-documented and Everton have some players capable of delivering crosses that would trouble the best defences, especially if Lucas Digne returns.

Additionally, our centre-halves like to play a high line and they can be caught out on the break.

Everton FC v Leicester City - Premier League
Everton won this fixture 2-1 last season in July
Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

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

Jake: Brendan Rodgers has fallen in love with a 4-2-3-1 shape and I don’t think he’ll change it, even with Vardy unavailable.

The big question is, who will partner Jonny Evans at the back? Both Wesley Fofana and Çağlar Söyüncü are fit, but my guess is Fofana will keep his place in the side.

James Justin and Timothy Castagne swap sides from time to time as they’re both right-footed, but it will probably be Justin on the left and Castagne on the right. Tielemans and Ndidi will be the defensive midfielders behind Harvey Barnes, Maddison, and Marc Albrighton. It’ll almost certainly be Ayoze Perez up top.

RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Jake: With Vardy sidelined, Maddison is the obvious answer here as he’s in blistering form, but I’m going to go with Barnes. Dealing with his pace is going to be key for the right side of the Everton defence.

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

Jake: I really, really want to predict a win for the Foxes but given Everton’s form, I’m going to go with a 2-2 draw.

Our thanks to Jake for his time.