Eye On The Opposition: Leicester vs Crystal Palace (16/12/2017)

Written by Jack Pierce

While Palace perhaps claimed the most exciting victory of the midweek fixtures, it was Leicester's 4-1 win at St Mary's that should perhaps be labelled the most impressive. Claude Puel returning to employers, who sent him on his merry way despite reaching a cup final and ensuring another top half finish, and inspire such a convincing victory must have pleased the manager. 

Puel, appointed in October, has really impressed at Leicester. He inherited a squad of players who looked like they were lacking a direction under Craig Shakespeare but since accepting the job, Puel has returned the group to the sort of form that took The Foxes to that famous league title. While I'm not in any way suggesting Leicester will be challenging for the league title, or even the top six, this season, it's interesting to see that Puel has managed to galvanise a squad who proved so capable just the season before last.

Four league wins on the bounce is impressive for any side in this league that isn't Manchester City right now and in fact it was City who were the last side to beat Leicester in mid November. Any sort of result for Palace here should be cherished given that Leicester are one of the in form sides in the division right now. That said, Palace are actually unbeaten in the league longer than Leicester are but the number of draws in that run has lessened the impact in terms of points and league placement.

It will be interesting to see the approach that Leicester take in terms of transfer dealings in January. They spent a fair whack during the summer on the likes of Harry Maguire, Vicente Iborra and Kalechi Iheanacho. The former pair have adapted to the life in The Midlands well and are regular first team starters; Iheanaho however has failed to make the impression that so many thought he would having left Manchester City. The Nigerian striker arrived for over £20 million but has done nothing, up to this point, to suggest he will repay such an investment. The club do have a number of strikers on its books and with Jamie Vardy the focal point, starting positions look hard to come by for the likes of Iheanacho. Fellow strikers, Leo Ulloa and Islam Slimani have also failed to make a case for a starting position and it's likely that one of that trio will be moved on in the upcoming window in an effort to raise money for other areas of the playing staff that Puel sees fit.

A very difficult trip for Palace, this. A win is unlikely so a point would be fantastic.

Then again, given it's the penultimate fixture before Christmas, just our first away league goal of the season would be alright.

Key Players

Harry Maguire

Maguire impressed at Hull last season despite the club struggling on and off the pitch. The centre half looked impressive on the ball, demonstrated his defensive instincts and offered a goal threat; it wasn't much of a surprise that his services were sought by Premier League sides after The Tigers' relegation.

If he maintains his form between now and the end of the season, Maguire can look forward to a trip to Russia next summer. Gareth Southgate tested him in the recent friendlies and Maguire looked assured.

Demarai Gray

A very exciting prospect who at one point during the summer transfer window was peculiarly linked with Palace in a deal that would have seen Andros Townsend go the other way. Without meaning to offend Townsend in any way, I'd have been willing to him to the King Power given how highly I rate Gray.

Capable of playing from either flank, Gray has impressed his new manager to the point he's getting regular starts under Puel. Not so sure we'll be seeing him in red and blue any time soon.

Jamie Vardy

Although not quite at his league winning season best, Vardy had returned to somewhere near that form this season in comparison to what he displayed last campaign.

His ability to stretch defences shouldn't go unnoticed and with the Palace defence much affected by injuries, Vardy will fancy his chances on Saturday.