by Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
December 15th, 2020
Everton FC at Leicester City F.C.
Spread: LCFC (0, -0.5); O/U: 2.5
Moneyline: Everton +235, LCFC +120, Draw +245
Time/Location: 1:00 ET, King Power Stadium, Leicester, England
Everton (LWLDW); 7th
Everton started the season out as one of the best teams in the Premier League, refusing to drop a point until their Merseyside Derby, the one where Virgil van Dijk was clattered by Jordan Pickford. Since then things have gone downhill, not drastically, but the club is regressing to a state that more fits their realistic quality. That wonderful start involved a front line of Richarlisson, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and James playing incredible attacking football, the two wingers playing some of their best football to feed their striker with sumptuous balls to slam into the nylon.
Other parts of the pitch were performing at a high level as well. One of the underrated purchases of the summer was that of Allan, a player who has stabilized the midfield of the club and facilitates the match in a way that allows Everton to make smart and efficient decisions. Séamus Coleman and Lucas Digne have done a fantastic job as modern full backs, streaking up the flanks to space the attack, Digne with four assists on the season. Any combination of center backs were defending well, disarming attackers and distributing quickly. Really the only player who wasn’t great was Jordan Pickford. After that Merseyside Derby, though, Everton began their regression.
Richarlisson and Digne both picked up three-match bans which put the offensive worldload directly on Calvert-Lewin and James, something that didn’t work. Pickford got even worse and allowed some miserable howlers. Without the offensive power being overwhelming Allan’s job became too much for one man in the midfield. Everton aren’t a bad team right now, but they’re not going to be able to challenge with the likes of Liverpool or Manchester City without Pickford regaining his 2018 form or the offense getting back into their top form.
Leicester City (LLWWW); 3rd
While Leicester can be one of the most exciting clubs in the Premier League at times, they’re also capable of playing terrible football and losing to clubs that they have no business even bothering with. The old coaching adage of “not playing to the level of your opponent” but rather to your own abilities is something that actually applies with the Foxes. The club consistently shows up for the big matches, beating Manchester City and Arsenal on the season, but had trouble with Sheffield and lost to Fulham and Zorya as well. This often doesn’t make sense because they’re flirting with the Champions League positions but just can’t make the transition to being truly elite.
That transition seems ready to come though. Despite Leicester’s status as a developmental club, sending players like Mahrez, Maguire, and Chilwell to bigger clubs for massive fees, they’ve stockpiled a team that competes for titles. Jamie Vardy is one of the best English strikers in the world, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans are fantastic attacking midfielders, Söyüncü is a world class defender and Wilfried Ndidi is a ball winning midfielder that most big clubs win the world need. The development of and investment in younger players like Fofana, Barnes, and Justin is world class. I don’t know if Brendan Rodgers has trouble motivating his club when they’re playing lesser competition but to me that’s the lone thing holding them back from being a top side in Europe.
Analysis and Pick
Choosing this match would be a very tough prospect if both sides were healthy. Both sides are very strong going forward with underrated holding midfielders and defenses that might even be over performing a bit. However, that’s not the case. Everton are missing their fullbacks, Digne and Coleman, as well as Fabian Delph and James, all big blows. Leicester will likely be without Timothy Castagne and Söyüncü, while Daniel Amartey and Jonny Evans will miss the match. Those injuries change the way this match will be played. Both of these sides will still be pushing forward and looking to utilize their talented strikers, but Leicester will have much better success at that with Tielemans and Maddison feeling Vardy balls to chase. Take Leicester win the match.