Coming next – Sheffield United

Thursday July 16th at the Kings Power Stadium – 6pm Sky Pick

Preview by Graham Tracey

If I was to be asked to summarise these teams in a sentence to someone who doesn’t follow football, I’d tell them that it was a team who add up to far more than the sum of their parts against a team who are massively less than the sum of their own. No guesses for which is which. I nearly always look on the positive side (even during our seasons in the lower end of the Championship) but can’t find any silver linings right now.

We’ll never play a reverse league fixture 11 months after the last one, so there is little point drawing lessons from the game at Bramall Lane other than we needed two fine goals to beat them, and conceded from a cross. Unfortunately the inspiration for the former seems less likely to be repeated than the latter with the defensive change we have to make.

I watched the Blades’ game against Chelsea and there was so much to admire. No stand-out star player, other than I think we would benefit hugely from someone like McBurnie to play alongside Vardy (although we have to be honest that players don’t usually want sideways moves, and I myself wouldn’t fancy moving until the ‘empty stadium’ era is behind us). However, everyone knew their role, the ball was cleared promptly when required, and they were swift on the break.

They don’t concede many goals, and if they let in one they sure won’t chuck in the towel and make it four. The spirit of Sheffield United seems epitomised by how they didn’t let the farce of their first game after lockdown (when they were denied two points by the ridiculous goal line technology failure at Villa) ruin their season. In contrast, I wonder how different our run-in would have been if not for that overhead kick equaliser by Watford. Other than Norwich and Bournemouth (how bad were they in the first half), we have probably been the poorest side in the league since restart.

I write this after the Man City verdict this morning, and so I imagine I am in the 99% of our fans who have written off the Champions League after the UEFA decision and Bournemouth debacle. With total respect to Kasper who will be hurting immensely, this was not a “wake up call” as he said after the match. Wake up calls come in the 5th game of the season, not the 35th. This was the death knell.

In 40 years of following Leicester I can’t think of such a significant disaster of a half in all that time – the 4-3 defeat at Wolves from 3 up at the break in 2003 being the last time I felt I was going to go full Basil Fawlty when he attacks his car with a branch.

Our players look bereft of belief and I guess this is inevitable with (I think) 21 points from the last half-season of 19 games. It is difficult to see us winning any of the last 3 games, let alone all of them. I think our key challenge now is to limp through to the Europa League, and then psychologically and tactically regroup and try to persuade our more talented individuals that this is a project worth persevering with, rather than jumping ship to bigger clubs.

I guess this depends on how much they buy into Rodgers, and despite the great facilities and club culture we don’t really know what the feel is in the camp. But if we look at Chris Wilder, we see a manager whose players would run through brick walls for him – and probably has more of the stick (like Nigel Pearson) when needed rather than just what seems the arm round the shoulders carrot of Brendan.

The absence of Soyuncu will obviously be significant for the rest of the season, although in an immature way I was pleased to see some (misplaced) aggression that has been missing for too long throughout the side. I would rather see Wes back in the team for his leadership rather than Bennett, who I feel the game has left a little behind (hence why a rival would loan him out). The return of Maddison and Chilwell would obviously help, although I feel we rely too much on Madders’ dead balls when he is in the side.

Unless they sense blood, I imagine that Sheffield United would be happy with a point, so if we are to have any chance of winning we will need to avoid catastrophic mistakes, not concede the first goal, and keep the ball moving forwards quickly. I imagine the best thing about supporting the Blades is that even in defeat you feel your team gave it their best shot. I wish we could say the same. There is nothing to lose now.

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation.

Article written before the Man Utd vs Southampton game