The major talking points ahead of Leicester vs Manchester City
Now sat four points adrift of Liverpool in the race to defend their crown, Manchester City’s shock 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend leaves Pep Guardiola in an unusual situation.
The Sky Blues have now lost two of their last three league outings and their defensive issues are starting to gain a lot of unwanted attention.
Although City will know the importance of keeping the pace with Jurgen Klopp’s high flyers, the former Barcelona boss will know he will not have it all his own way on Boxing day though.
Claude Puel’s Leicester side are coming off the back of an equally surprising result on Saturday when they managed to pick up a 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
In desperate need of an immediate response against a resurgent Foxes’ side, what are the major talking points before Guardiola’s defending champions head to the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day:
ENHANCED ODDS – 66/1 Leicester win or 4/1 Man City win: CLAIM.
Kyle Walker’s worrying form
In a performance that saw City ship three goals and suffer their first home league defeat against a non-top-six side since February 2016, it was the erratic performance of Kyle Walker that had most people talking.
Giving away a clumsy penalty and also being heavily highlighted for his role in Palace’s opening two goals, the England international is quickly becoming Manchester City’s weak link.
Playing in a defence that have now recorded just one clean sheet in their last eight league outings, many around the Etihad are pleading for a change at right-back.
With Guardiola confirming that deputy full-back Danilo has recovered from a muscle injury he picked up against Bournemouth three weeks ago, the 47-year-old could be tempted to give Walker some time away from the limelight.
In a month that has also seen Rio Ferdinand brand the full-back as a “liability” after being caught out in City’s 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, Walker is also having far less success in the final third compared to his attacking antics last season.
While left-back Benjamin Mendy has played over 500 minutes less than Walker, the Frenchman has produced five assists and four big chances for City, Walker is yet to record one of either.
Also appearing to lose his place as Gareth Southgate’s #1 right-back, Tottenham’s decision to sell Walker for £50million is quickly becoming a stroke of genius, especially as Spurs already had Kieran Trippier waiting in the wings.
Can Jamie Vardy keep up his stellar record?
If there is one man who will be relishing the chance to cause another upset and continue his remarkable run of form against the Premier League elite, that man is Leicester’s Jamie Vardy.
Finding the net against Chelsea on Saturday and helping the Foxes’ pick up a shock 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge, the 31-year-old now has a stunning 13 goals in his last 15 league games against Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.
Even more impressive, the now former England international has scored 31 goals in his last 47 games against established top-six teams, a goalscoring percentage of 65.96%.
While last week’s headlines were stolen by Vardy’s criticism at Puel’s possession-based tactics, Leicester’s leading goalscorer is an ever willing runner for the Foxes’ and also has a proven track record against Guardiola’s side.
Against City, he’s scored five in seven games.
A huge part of Vardy’s success leading the visitor’s line has been his blossoming relationship with summer arrival James Maddison who has taken over the creative void left by Riyad Mahrez’s departure to the Etihad.
Picking up another assist for Vardy in west London on Saturday, the former Norwich man has created 41 goalscoring chances in the Premier League this season, more than any other English player.
City desperately need Kevin De Bruyne
While Guardiola’s squad rotation policy may have gained a long list of admirers last season, City’s replacements haven’t been able to fill the void left by the injured Kevin De Bruyne.
Although the Belgian international returned from his knee injury and found the net in last week’s EFL Cup victory over Leicester, Guardiola decided not to start him in Saturday’s defeat to Crystal Palace, a decision that received some level of backlash.
Summoned midway through the second half, De Bruyne’s first Premier League goal of the season and an outstanding all-around cameo appearance sees him as almost a shoo-in to make a return on Boxing Day.
The 27-year-old’s return couldn’t be coming at a better time for the Sky Blues.
With David Silva unlikely to feature due to an ongoing injury issue, City are crying out for that creative spark to pull the strings in the final third.
Boosted by the news that Sergio Aguero has fully recovered and is ready to make a return to City’s starting XI, offering Guardiola so much needed menace in the Foxes’ box, the defending champions desperately need last year’s Premier League Playmaker of the Season back to his best.
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