Almost every pundit in the country would have placed both Liverpool and Leicester in their Premier League top seven going into the campaign but hardly any would have either team any higher than fifth.
Jurgen Klopp and Claudio Ranieri are both attempting to beat the odds by breaking into what looks to be an impenetrable top four. Having taken four points from their opening three games, neither have gone about it in the right way thus far.
The well-matched teams will have an opportunity to weigh each other up this coming Saturday as the reigning champions travel to the newly expanded Anfield. Having seen their sides falter and impress in equal measure already this season, a win would be a big bonus for either of them.
But before they can lay hands on three precious points, the individuals on the pitch will first have to get their acts together. Liverpool will be hoping to repeat the display that saw them beat Arsenal 4-3 while Leicester will be looking to dig up some inspiration from last season’s heroics.
In partnership with DraftKings, GiveMeSport takes a look at five key battles ahead of Liverpool v Leicester.
PHILIPPE COUTINHO V SHINJI OKAZAKI
Both Coutinho and Okazaki appear to have flourished against the odds. Small in stature, Coutinho’s lack of strength was seen as a big problem when he originally arrived from Inter Milan in 2013.
But the Brazilian has regularly defied the status quo to come up with the goods and that is no truer than this current campaign. He is averaging over 15 fantasy football points per game on DraftKings with a 29 point haul against Arsenal a particular highlight. His shot accuracy of 46 percent is rather impressive while he has also created six opportunities for his Liverpool teammates.
In comparison, Okazaki has no goals or assists to his name and has managed to create just one opportunity for Leicester. However, the Japanese international is widely regarded for his high work rate rather than his goal return and will be tirelessly chasing down Liverpool’s fragile defence until he can run no more.
Coutinho appears the more likely to make an impact on the scoresheet but Okazaki’s potential to disturb Liverpool’s balance should not be underestimated.
SADIO MANE V RIYAD MAHREZ
If Mahrez is one of the most elegant right-wingers in the Premier League then Mane is certainly one of the most explosive. While the PFA Player of the Year appears to dance his way into the opposition’s area, Mane sprints full pelt and hopes for the best.
It was the Senegalese who caused Arsenal all sorts of problems on the opening day of the Premier League while, comparatively, Mahrez found it difficult to break the Gunners’ defensive line down.
Both players have just the one goal this season but it is Mane who has provided the better displays. Against a solid Leicester defence, however, the former Southampton star could find his attributes nullified.
Simon Mignolet v Kasper Schmeichel
Few goalkeepers have been more intensely scrutinised than Liverpool’s Mignolet and, according to the statistics, his critics could have a good point. The Belgian has conceded more goals in the Premier League (six) than he has made saves (five). That leaves him with a pretty poor average of just 2 fantasy points per game on DraftKings.
Compare that to Schmeichel, who has made nine saves and conceded just two goals thus far. The Dane is certainly proving to be a chip off the old block but a recent hernia operation makes him a slight doubt for the upcoming fixture.
Jordan Henderson v Danny Drinkwater
If Sam Allardyce needed any excuse to call Drinkwater up to his England squad, a mammoth performance against Arsenal would have given him all the reason in the world. The Leicester man won an incredible six tackles and completed two interceptions throughout the 90 minutes. No wonder the Gunners failed to create anything of significance.
Meanwhile, Henderson is still trying to rekindle his best form after spending much of the previous campaign out with an injury. His performances have seemed ineffectual thus far but he has created five opportunities for his team-mates and completed 86% percent of his passes.
Neither of these players are likely to be big point scorers on the day but their ability to control the tempo from midfield should set the tone of the game.
Adam Lallana v Mark Albrighton
Adam Lallana’s last-gasp goal for England against Slovakia was no fluke. The technically gifted midfielder appears to have found his shooting boots in the summer break and is looking more dangerous in front of goal than ever before.
He has 18 shots to his name in just four games for club and country this season with four of those landing on target and two in the back of the net. He is also boasting a pass completion rate of 87 percent and has created seven opportunities.
Albrighton is a similar player to Lallana but is struggling to convince Claudio Ranieri that he is worth a place in the side. He has started Leicester’s last two games, scoring an average of 7.5 fantasy points in the process.
His 12 crosses against Swansea give you a clear sign of what is to come and now he has a man mountain in the form of Islam Slimani to aim at, expect at least some of those crosses to transform into assists.