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article imageTactical Preview: Leicester City — Manchester United

By Tyrrell Meertins     Nov 27, 2015 in Sports
Manchester United’s Saturday afternoon visit to Leicester City features the top two sides in the Premier League battling for sole possession of first place.
The hosts currently sit top of the Premier League, one point ahead of United prior to kick off, and a victory would prolong a truly remarkable start to the campaign.
"Normally these kind of clubs can compete for long time, then at the end it becomes more difficult," suggested Van Gaal when asked about a potential Leicester title challenge.
"But in England because of the quality of the teams, because every team has the money to buy players - and they have bought players - the difference in the Premier League between the clubs is not so high."
The two sides provided an enthralling encounter in last season’s duel at the King Power Stadium – featuring a terrific Angel Di Maria goal, along with Leicester’s memorable second half resurgence – and this encounter seems suited to follow a similar pattern.
Stylistically, United and Leicester are completely contrasting: the former intends on dominating possession, whereas the latter focus on organization and swift counter-attacks. United’s issue is that they fail to create enough quality chances over the course of 90 minutes, while Leicester are culpable to conceding goals, but have relied Jamie Vardy’s hot form to steered the club amongst the top of the league.
One of the key factors involving Leicester’s success involves the Foxes shape out of possession and their diligent work-rate. United’s man-marking and compact shape is equally impressive, with both side’s showcasing various methods of positive collective defending.
Ranieri’s men tend to play in a traditional 4-4-2 that features the side drop into two banks of four, with the two forwards sit behind the deep-lying midfielders to negate their influence on the match, and the wingers quickly getting behind the ball to protect the full-backs.
The Leicester manager's main decision is upfront as he’s consistently rotated Vardy’s strike partner as the English striker attempts to break Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record by scoring in his 11th consecutive Premier League game. Though, Leonardo Ulloa scored at Newcastle last weekend, Ranieri may prefer Shinji Okazaki or Riyad Mahrez to prevent overloads in central areas.
Although the former doesn’t offer a legitimate goal threat around the final third, Okazaki’s work-rate and understanding of leading the press alongside Vardy can be deployed as a first half approach to contain United’s possession dominance. In Mahrez, Ranieri can field a tricky attacking player that will roam into pockets of space to turn lead swift transitions with his impressive dribbling skills, whilst capable of creating chances out of nothing.
However, Vardy remains the main topic point prior to kick-off despite encountering the league’s best defence. Vardy’s renowned tireless work-rate within the channels could undo United’s centre-backs again — he out-muscled Marcos Rojo, Tyler Blackett, and Rafael in the build up to goals before scoring his own — and his pace and ruthless finishing shouldn’t be overlooked.
The midfield picks itself for both sides as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin will face off against Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante. Where the United midfielders will adopt deeper positions to dictate the tempo, Leicester has relied on Kante’s dynamism to break up attacks and ignite transitions, while Drinkwater’s discipline ensures the back-line is protected.
On the flanks Marc Albrighton and Jeffrey Schlupp are powerful direct options that carry out defensive duties efficiently, but can equally storm past challenges en route to goal. Juan Mata is expected to return to the XI and cut infield from the right, whereas Ashley Young or Memphis Depay may seek to cut onto their stronger foot from the left.
Similar to Leicester, Van Gaal’s fortunes may rest in the hands of Anthony Martial. Leicester’s weakest area lies at centre-back — Wes Morgan and Robert Huth aren’t great defenders — and the Frenchman’s trickery and pace could exploit their deficiencies. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney will be aiming to build on a positive midweek showing against PSV that featured several clever passes within the final third.
Nevertheless, this will be a big test for both sides with the Christmas period approaching: United have already succumbed to a superb Arsenal counterattacking showing this season, whereas this will be Leicester’s first clash against a top four side since their 2-5 thrashing against the Gunners.
Still, Leicester’s transitions in both the defensive and attacking phases could fluster a boring United outfit, and while a slow-burning match would favour Van Gaal’s men, Ranieri’s counter-attacking threats remain decisive. It’s fitting that the main strikers serve as key players in a crucial top of the table clash that should feature a few goals.
More about BPL, Premier League, Manchester United, Leicester city, Jamie Vardy
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