Such is the audacious nature of Leicester’s squad at the moment, it was fiendishly difficult to pick just two Foxes to recommend for your FLIP team. This match-up is a perfect example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object—and arguably the most intriguing contest of the weekend’s fixtures. The Guardian considers Manchester United to be favourites for the title, which is fair considering the Reds don’t concede too many—but they aren’t scoring either. Leicester score for fun, but can’t defend. Who would have thought that Leicester would be the team to beat this time last year?
United’s eight clean sheets are testament to a magnificent defensive unit, with the much-improved Chris Smalling proving to be an inspiring leader at the back. Yet it is Daley Blind, playing at left-back in the last match who receives the FLIP Sports nod. It is the contest between the Dutchman and Riyad Mahrez that may go a long way to deciding the result—Mahrez is statistically (and literally) one of the best players in Europe right now and a big part of Leicester’s heady renaissance. If Blind can prevent Mahrez assisting Jamie Vardy then he will have played his part admirably.
Louis Van Gaal’s indefatigable midfield lieutenant tore victory from Watford in stoppage time in their last match, and his experience would be welcome in almost every team in the league. Here’s a player who has seen it all, a ready-made warrior that United definitely needed if LVG was going to maintain his iron grip on this team (which still harbours some mutinous elements). Some fans get frustrated with LVG’s midfield combinations not being creative enough—conservatism that may cost United a genuine title shot should the few flair players struggle. Away to free-scoring Leicester, a bit of restraint might be exactly what the doctor ordered though.
As if we could cover this game without mentioning the goal-machine of middle England—this is the moment Vardy could cement his name in the history books, and probably guarantee himself a move to a European giant (should he desire to leave, no sure thing). On this occasion one finds a certain thoughtfulness descends—how many other potential stars are there, toiling in the lower leagues waiting to be discovered? Although Vardy has been like a thunderbolt in a clear sky, the law of probability dictates there will be others. Even if the Red Devils lose, their fans should celebrate with the rest of us should Vardy break the record. He has been a breath of fresh air in a stale league.
A new signing at the King Power, Kanté has quietly made great progress. He put in star turns against Watford and Newcastle, but facing Manchester United is a different proposition entirely. Will he be able to repeat his high performances this time out?