Foxes raring to resume hunt

Algerian Riyad Mahrez (above), with 14 league goals, has been a super sidekick to Leicester top scorer Jamie Vardy this season but was totally fatigued by his exertions in the 0-1 loss to Liverpool on Boxing Day. That was just the second defeat of an
Algerian Riyad Mahrez (above), with 14 league goals, has been a super sidekick to Leicester top scorer Jamie Vardy this season but was totally fatigued by his exertions in the 0-1 loss to Liverpool on Boxing Day. That was just the second defeat of an amazingly strong season.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

After reversal against Reds, they face stiff test by City and need both Vardy & Mahrez to fire

LONDON • Leicester City winger Marc Albrighton reckons the Premier League leaders (before last night's round of matches) can bounce back after defeat by Liverpool against title rivals Manchester City at the King Power Stadium today.

While Leicester's 15-goal top scorer Jamie Vardy is expected to be fully fit after a virus, City will be without injured captain Vincent Kompany.

Albrighton has warned City that Leicester are not about to implode after suffering only their second defeat of the season on Boxing Day.

"We see this as a test," the winger said yesterday. "There will probably be a lot of pundits and media that might think now we are going to lie down and relax with our 30-something points.

"We're not a side to do that. We've got Manchester City on Tuesday and we look forward to bouncing back against them.

"We've got ourselves in a brilliant situation and we are doing fantastic. Everyone was tipping us to be down there at the start of the season, but we're right in the mix and we deserve to be where we are."

Vardy's understanding with Algeria playmaker Riyad Mahrez has been crucial to the Foxes' success this season - between them, they have scored 29 of Leicester's 37 goals.

The fact that neither of them looked fully fit against Liverpool will be of concern to manager Claudio Ranieri ahead of another key fixture.

"Mahrez was very, very tired," said Ranieri, after the 0-1 loss to Liverpool. "The spirit in the camp now is not so good, but that is a good thing, because the players always want to try to win.

"Now we have to clean our minds and think towards the next match. It will be another big test, but we are ready."

The Italian is unlikely to make significant changes, as long as Vardy and Mahrez are both declared fit, and will look for his side to show the stamina he talked so positively about in the lead-up to the Christmas fixtures.

Kompany, meanwhile, was making his first appearance for seven weeks when he entered the field as a second-half substitute during City's 4-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday, but lasted only nine minutes before hobbling off again.

The bad news for manager Manuel Pellegrini is that the central defender has suffered a recurrence of the calf injury that has troubled him for much of the season, and the fear is that he will be out for several weeks.

Kompany's importance to City's defence is difficult to overstate; he has started eight of his team's 18 Premier League matches this season, during which they have conceded just once. By contrast, they have let in 19 league goals when the Belgium international has not been on the field.

In his absence, Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala must try to look more convincing than they have for much of the season, as Pellegrini's team seek a first away league victory since Sept 12. Martin Demichelis offers a limited alternative.

"Our team with Vincent is stronger but without him we must try to continue being competitive," said Pellegrini. "That depends on the performances of Mangala, Otamendi and Demichelis. We cannot think all the mistakes are just because Vincent isn't playing. He's very important, but that doesn't mean without him we cannot win."

It is perhaps a sign of how open this season's Premier League is that a team can go more than three months without winning away from home and still be in title contention.

City were helped by the fact that, as they were beating relegation- threatened Sunderland, Leicester were slipping up at Anfield, and Arsenal were thumped 4-0 at Southampton.

To capitalise on that good fortune, Pellegrini may decide to restore Sergio Aguero to the starting line-up, having rested the striker on Boxing Day following his recent return from a heel injury.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Foxes raring to resume hunt'. Print Edition | Subscribe