After what seems like an eternity, Liverpool are back in action in the Premier League, as they travel to Leicester to take on the beleaguered champions on Monday night. Leicester City are currently without a manager as they sacked Claudio Ranieri at the end of last week, after a tumultuous season sees them well and truly in the relegation dogfight.
It is fair to say that the greatest ever story in modern football could have the most ugly ending come May, and Leicester have 13 games to save themselves. The first of those is against an enigmatic Liverpool, who have been brilliant on some days and abysmal on others, through the course of the season.
Leicester will take heart from the fact that over the last couple of months, teams like Sunderland and Hull City have taken precious points off the Reds in their races for respective Premier League survival.
For Liverpool, the race for the top four is tighter than it has ever been in recent Premier League seasons, and they cannot afford to slip up against teams like Leicester.
Here are some key individual battles ahead of the game on Monday night.
Christian Fuchs v Sadio Mane
Mane’s return has galvanised the Reds, there is absolutely no doubt about that. He gave Liverpool their first Premier League win of the calendar year with a brace against Spurs at Anfield a fortnight ago.
What will be a huge boost for Mane is that there has been no competitive football for a couple of weeks and that would have enabled him to rest thoroughly and rid himself of any little niggles that may have popped up.
He slotted straight back into the Liverpool team after his sojourn in Africa with Senegal and the break could not have done him any harm.
For Fuchs, the job description is very simple: to deny Mane any kind of space to work in. If Mane has that room, he will run rings around the Austrian.
Fuchs isn’t the quickest, so his decision-making will be critical to him doing well on the night. If he rushes in to tackles, he will have to make sure he either gets the ball or the man. If he lets Mane off his leash, then Fuchs cannot catch up with the blistering pace of the Senegalese.
With the Reds’ attack looking strong with all the first-choice players available, Mane will have no dearth of options to pick out as the movement of Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino will not go away.
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