Coming off of the massive 1-0 victory against Manchester United a week and a half ago, Everton must continue to take points from the remaining matches they have to play to ensure survival. The first such test will be against a Leicester City lot that have had difficulties at points this season, but have played better - for the most part - recently.
Frank Lampard and Everton may need the points more badly than the Foxes currently do as they hang on the verge of relegation territory, but Leicester City will be looking to work on themselves as well. They will be trying to simultaneously get themselves back on track after the tough loss to Newcastle over the weekend, while they keep building momentum for the semifinals of the UECL against Roma at the end of April.
RBM: First off, as the Foxes currently sit around the middle of the Premier League table, what is the feeling around this Leicester City team and its supporters amid the inconsistent season that the club has fought through thus far?
Given that we bought aggressively this summer and didn’t sell a key player for the first time in years, the expectations were awfully high. I think everyone, from the owners down to the supporters, are disappointed, but at least there’s an obvious reason for it and that’s probably what’s saved Brendan Rodgers from the sack.
RBM: This team is playing much better now than earlier in the campaign; what is the reasoning for this positive turn for a club that was much better last season?
It’s all down to injuries. There were times this winter when we were starting our 3rd and 4th choice right-backs at fullback and our 4th and 5th choice centre-halves. As we saw with Manchester City against Liverpool, an insecure defence affects the ability to attack as well. With Ricardo, Castagne, Evans, and especially Fofana back, the base is now secure. That’s really all there is to it.
RBM: How is the positive Europa Conference League run affecting this team this season, and has that at all helped to develop this team over the course of this entire campaign?
That’s a great question! We started the season in the Europa League and, with our depleted ranks, we simply didn’t have the bodies to compete in Europe and the league. We would have been better off without the Europa League and I think we all felt we’d do well to be out of the Europa Conference League as quickly as possible. But, we suddenly started to get healthy and find our feet a little and now it looks like this third tier of European competition is our top priority. Funny old world.
RBM: How has the team grown with the multiple absences of Jamie Vardy? Who has stepped up without him, and if he can return sooner than later, what a boost might it provide for these Foxes?
Vardy’s the talisman and there’s just no replacing a player like him. The Foxes have coped largely by having Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka serve as decoys or providers with the midfield picking up the slack. Getting him back would mean everything to the club. His presence changes everything.
RBM: How do you expect Leicester to set up on Wednesday and who do you think might cause Everton the most problems?
I think the lineup will strongly resemble what we fielded against Newcastle, although Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall may get to sit this one out in favour of James Maddison. If that’s the case, I think Madders is clearly the danger man. He has the third-most goal involvements of any player in English football behind Harry Kane and Tammy Abraham and he’ll be looking to make a point.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s match?
I could see this going exactly the way the Newcastle match went. Brendan Rodgers has clearly prioritized the Europa Conference League over the Premier League and I would expect to see a lineup (and a result) closer to what Leicester saw in January: Everton 2-1 Leicester City
Our thanks to Jake for his time.