Leicester City will be hoping to ensure that they spend Christmas on top of the Premier League as they begin a festive double header on Merseyside with a a visit to Goodison Park to face Everton.
A lack of ruthlessless is the primary reason why the hosts do not find themselves further up the league table, drawing their last three matches despite having ample opportunity to win each of them. That was emphatically the case at Norwich City last weekend as they played great football but missed chance after chance to extend a one-goal lead and ended up paying the price, conceding early in the second half and being forced to settle for what had seemed an improbable draw.
Top scorer Romelu Lukaku netted for the seventh game in a row in all competitions in East Anglia, but will have been frustrated with his inability to add to his tally. That is just a measure of the kind of form the Belgian finds himself in at present, and if he can retain it to coincide with his teammates increasing their level of efficiency in both boxes, the Toffees will become formidable opposition, although here they will be very aware of the damage Leicester can inflict should they be in any way under par.
It was yet another fabulous team performance which saw Leicester overcome defending champions Chelsea on Monday as they held on to claim a 2-1 victory despite having to withstand considerable pressure. But it was the same two players who did the real damage, with Riyad Mahrez setting up Jamie Vardy for an exquisite first, before the Algerian capped a superb all-round showing by curling a finish of the highest quality past Thibaut Courtois and into the top corner.
While the message from those at the club is that the priority is to gain the ever-decreasing number of points they need to ensure Premier League survival, their results suggest that finishing in the top four at least appears to be a very realistic target. Keeping the likes of Mahrez fit will be crucial in the long run, as he is currently on a different level to most other players in the top-flight right now. Having not long returned from injury, this promises to be a testing afternoon for Everton left-back Leighton Baines.
There could be a return to the Everton side for midfielder James McCarthy, who has missed the last three games because of a hip injury.
Claudio Ranieri will be forced into changes, with Robert Huth serving one-match ban and Daniel Drinkwater out through injury. Andy King is expected to replace the latter.
Last Meeting: He is making goalscoring look easy now, but back in February he was really struggling and missed numerous chances here as the bottom of the table Foxes claimed a 2-2 draw. The striker’s presence did at least force Matthew Upson into scoring the own goal which led to Everton snatching a point two minutes from time, which came after David Nugent and Esteban Cambiasso had turned things around following Steven Naismith’s opener for the hosts.
Played for both – Marcus Bent: The much-travelled striker spent the 2003-04 season on loan at Leicester, but was unable to keep them in the Premier League despite scoring nine goals in 33 appearances. He spent the next two campaigns at Everton, helping them finish a famous fourth place in 2005, but he struggled for goals throughout his time there, finding the net just seven times in 55 league games.