Liverpool beat Aston Villa 3-1 on Boxing Day to boost their chances of a top-four finish
Leicester City were soundly beaten by Newcastle United the day after Christmas
Liverpool should come out on top in their final match of the calendar year
The odds for Liverpool vs Leicester City are provided by the Caesars sportsbook, which is giving out a $1500 risk-free bet to new punters.
The Reds looked sharp against Aston Villa and the Foxes have had defensive problems all season long.
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It is fair to say that things did not go entirely to plan for Liverpool in the first part of this season. Having won the FA Cup and the EFL Cup last season, while going extremely close to lifting the Premier League and Champions League trophies too, the Reds were once again expected to challenge on all fronts this time around.
Instead, the FA Cup and the Champions League are the only pieces of silverware they might still win in 2022/23. Jurgen Klopp’s side were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Manchester City a few days before Christmas, and their title chances were long since ended even though there is still more than half of the season left to play.
Yet there is a sense of renewed optimism at Anfield right now. A 3-1 victory over Aston Villa on Boxing Day moved Liverpool to within five points of the Champions League qualification spots, while they have a game in hand on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
This week also brought some good news off the pitch, as PSV announced they had agreed on a deal to sell Cody Gakpo to the Reds. Manchester United had been strongly linked with the Netherlands international, so Liverpool will have been doubly delighted to win the race for his signature. The transfer is expected to officially go through next week.
Even so, Liverpool have little margin for error in what looks set to be a hotly contested race for the top four. Tottenham have been unconvincing for some time now, but Newcastle United are still going strong and Manchester United have started to build up a head of steam too. A top-four finish is far from certain for Liverpool as 2023 approaches.
Much like Liverpool, Leicester have had to readjust their expectations for the season since the action got underway. After an eighth-place finish under Brendan Rodgers the last term, the hope was that the Foxes would, in a worst-case scenario, be the ‘best of rest’ outside the traditional big six.
Instead, it is increasingly difficult to see Leicester qualifying for the continental competition, be it the Europa League or the Europa Conference League. They sit 13th in the standings at the time of writing, seven points adrift of the top seven. They are closer to the relegation zone than the European places ahead of this daunting trip to Anfield.
After a summer in which they signed only one outfielder, Leicester made a disastrous start to the campaign by taking just one point from the first 21 available. They eventually clambered out of the bottom three and went on a good run before the break for World Cup 2022, but a 3-0 loss to Newcastle on Monday sent Leicester crashing back down to earth.
Rodgers will probably see out the season without being sacked, but do not be surprised if there is a new face in the King Power Stadium dugout at the start of next term. This relationship may now have run its course.
The problems do not start and end with the manager, though. He must bear responsibility for factors like the team’s poor defensive record, but the success of the club’s recruitment has tailed off dramatically and squad planning has been subpar.
It is not all doom and gloom: a couple of wins could lift Leicester back into the top half of the table, while they are through to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup. Yet it is fair to say things have not gone to plan so far in 2022/23.
For all the recent disappointment of being knocked out of the title race prematurely, 2022 has been another excellent year for Liverpool. They picked up two trophies domestically and went on another brilliant journey to the Champions League final, which was only narrowly lost to Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
Klopp will want to see his team end the calendar year on a high, but like all managers, he will be looking forwards rather than backwards. A winning run in the coming weeks would see Liverpool pile the pressure on the teams above them in the table, and on paper, the upcoming fixture list does not look overly unkind.
As for Leicester, they must show much more than they did in the 3-0 loss to Newcastle. Their shortcomings at both ends of the field were painfully obvious on that occasion, and they will leave Anfield empty-handed unless they can produce a much more defensively solid display on Friday.
Alas, the evidence of the season to date suggests that will probably be beyond them. Back Liverpool to score in both halves in this one.
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Teams: Liverpool vs Leicester City
Location: Anfield, Liverpool, England
Date and Time: Friday, 30 December 2022, 15.00 PM EDT
How to Watch: Peacock Premium
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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