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Tottenham were disappointed that the north London derby was postponed at the weekend. The Premier League granted Arsenal’s request for the match to be called off, with the Gunners citing the absence of players due to injury, Covid-19, suspension and international duty. The second of those reasons was understandable, but given that few Arsenal players had actually contracted the virus, Spurs were surprised to see the Premier League intervene.
The only team in the division who have played fewer games than Tottenham this season are Burnley. Spurs have taken to the field just 18 times in the top flight; they have two, three or four games in hand on their rivals for a top-four place, but perhaps Antonio Conte would prefer to have more points in the bag. Tottenham’s fate is in their own hands, though. Were they to win each of their matches in hand on those above them in the table, Spurs would climb above Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham United – and into third place.
They are yet to lose a league game since Conte assumed control, but Tottenham were outclassed by Chelsea in their recent League Cup semi-final. The Blues won the first leg at Stamford Bridge without breaking sweat, and Conte was critical of his players’ performance after that 2-0 defeat. Chelsea then won the second meeting 1-0 in north London, ensuring Tottenham’s wait for a trophy will go on for a few more months at least.
Conte believes Spurs have plenty of work to do before they can get back to the level they reached under Mauricio Pochettino. Yet they have already made significant strides since the Italian took charge, and a top-four finish is well within reach for a team that contains some excellent players.
Like Tottenham, Leicester have only played 18 times this term. They are yet to take to the field in the Premier League in 2022, having had scheduled meetings with Norwich City, Everton and Burnley called off. Two of those came at the request of Leicester, but the Foxes were not in action at the weekend because Burnley did not have enough players for the fixture.
Brendan Rodgers will be desperate for his side to rediscover their rhythm. The first half of the campaign did not really go to plan for Leicester, who narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification in Rodgers’ first two full seasons at the helm. Leicester are currently 12 points adrift of the top four and are unlikely to make up enough ground in the months ahead, although ending January with a couple of wins would make the mood around the King Power Stadium much brighter.
Leicester’s problem up to now has been defensive. Only Watford, Leeds United, Newcastle United and Norwich have conceded more goals than the Foxes this term. Their backline has been breached on 33 occasions, and they have kept only three clean sheets all season – although two of those came in Leicester’s last three matches, against Liverpool and Newcastle.
Finishing in the top four is probably too big a task, but Rodgers’ men can still qualify for Europe. They just need to be more consistent from week to week: Leicester have registered back-to-back wins in the top flight just once this season, having done it seven times in the first half of 2020/21 and on nine occasions in 2019/20.
Leicester look set to be without several key players on Wednesday. Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Papy Mendy and Daniel Amartey are at the Africa Cup of Nations. Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira, Wesley Fofana, Jamie Vardy, Timothy Castagne and Ryan Bertrand are out injured. Leicester will have to dig deep if they are to emerge triumphant in this one.
Another doubt surrounds their match fitness. Leicester have only played once in 2022 – and that was an FA Cup game. They have contested just two Premier League matches since December 12. While Rodgers will be grateful his squad had the chance to recuperate, there is a danger that Leicester will be severely short of sharpness on Wednesday.
Tottenham will miss Son Heung-min, who has arguably been their best player this season. But against opponents who have had precious little action in recent weeks, Spurs should have enough about them to grind out a win.
This is likely to be a tight affair with little to choose between the two teams, but Conte will stress the primacy of the result as the race for the top four starts to heat up. Leicester shocked Liverpool last month but their lack of attacking options with Iheanacho and Vardy out suggests Tottenham should collect maximum points.
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|Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur Information|
|Teams||Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur|
|Location||King Power Stadium, Leicester, England|
|Time||Wednesday, 19 January 2022, 02.30 PM EST|
|How to watch||USA Network|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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