Going into the season, not a lot was expected of Leicester City.
The Foxes had endured a repugnant end of the 2019/20 campaign, winning just two of their final ten games and surrendering a place in the Champions League in the process. It wasn’t just the results that were worrying; the performances were also dire. Going forward things had gone stale and uncharacteristic errors were sneaking into the once impenetrable defence.
In this context, Leicester’s incredible start to the 2020/21 season has been nothing short of miraculous. They currently sit top of the Premier League table with six wins from their opening eight games. This has included three swaggering away victories; a 5-2 win against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, a merciless 4-1 thrashing of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds and a 1-0 smash and grab at the Emirates Stadium.
This rapid start has been replicated on the continent with the Foxes winning their opening three Europa League games. Most recently, they defeated Braga 4-0 just days before edging out Wolves 1-0 to remain top of the pile in England.
All of this has been mightily impressive and Rodgers is clearly enjoying himself, treading the line between confidence and arrogance more closely with each passing week.
“Because I’m a British manager, I probably got lucky,” he joked after playing hipster favourites Leeds off the park earlier this month.
They say that pride comes before a fall and Rodgers will be hoping that’s not the case when his Leicester side face their toughest test of the season so far on Sunday. This weekend, they travel to their manager’s forming hunting ground, Anfield, to take the reigning champions.
Liverpool have not lost at home in the league in 63 games and have won five of their last six meetings against Leicester. The last time the two sides faced off on Boxing Day 2019, it was bloodbath. The Reds coasted to a 4-0 victory over Leicester to end any fanciful notions of a title race and go 13 points clear at the top of the table. The team the Foxes will face on Sunday will be very different.
While not wanting to underplay the size of Leicester’s task, there is not likely to be a better time to play the Reds during this most strange of seasons. The international break has not been kind to Liverpool, with their already injury ravaged squad further weakened.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk will all definitely miss out while Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho are all doubts.
This leaves Liverpool with a barebones starting XI, with the defence looking particularly problematic. Jamie Vardy will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing Joel Matip and one of Fabinho or Nathaniel Phillips, particularly if Jurgen Klopp persists with the Reds’ high line that seemed to be causing Gomez all sorts of issues prior to his absence.
Harvey Barnes will be also be relishing the chance to run at Liverpool’s makeshift defence. He’ll be especially motivated to prove himself to Gareth Southgate after being snubbed for the England squad recently.
In midfield, in form Youri Tielemans will fancy his chances of asserting himself if Henderson does not recover in time, while James Maddison will be looking to capitalise on any organisational slackness which will give him an opportunity to drift in-between the lines and play in Vardy.
Take all of this into account and suddenly the Reds’ imperious home record does not look quite so imposing.
Leicester are still not favourites for Sunday’s game but they have a great chance to secure their first win at Anfield since 2000. The season may still be in its infancy but a victory here would fire the starting pistol on a multi-horsed title race for the first time in several years. A title race that the Foxes – and Rodgers in particular – would very much like to be a part of.