He’s been their go to man all season, but will the absence of striking sensation Jamie Vardy affect The Foxes in their game with Swansea on Sunday?
A 5 game winning streak was halted last weekend in a controversial game at The King Power Stadium, where Leicester drew 2-2 with West Ham. Vardy was sent off after picking up a second yellow card for simulation and the following night the momentum swung in Tottenham’s favour after an efficient display at Stoke saw them dispatch the Potters 4-0.
Spurs will be licking their lips at the prospect of overhauling Leicester’s 5 point lead and now the pressure is firmly on Claudio Ranieri’s side, but can they get a result without Vardy?
The England frontman has scored critical goals in the run in, with a brace against Sunderland as well as opening the scoring last week, but in his absence Ranieri will have to rely Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa to replace their main man.
Title rival manager Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that the absence of Leicester’s main man could swing the title race in Tottenham’s favour, saying:
“He’s one of the best strikers in the Premier League. They will feel that.”
No doubt Okazaki and Ulloa have more than played their role in Leicester’s tremendous campaign with crucial goals themselves but the role Vardy has played this term is incomparable and any side in the Premier League would struggling to fill the boots of a striker that had had that effect. Ulloa will likely be given a start but the difference in the style of the two players could prove a problem and Leicester will have to adapt to Ulloa’s presence.
Will Ranieri seek to play a different style?
Vardy has been a crucial part of his plans with his blistering pace, it’s been well known that Ranieri is happy to see the opposition have possession of the ball, allowing the Foxes to sit back and counter the space that has been left behind.
The Italian has been known for his tinkering throughout his career although his loyalty to the same XI week after week this year has been key to their success. The former Chelsea manager will not want to disrupt what is a settled team meaning he could play Okazaki slightly higher, with Ulloa coming in deep.
Having gone off the boil in recent weeks, just as important will be Riyad Mahrez who will need to pick up the slack.
Momentum has been a buzzword at Leicester this season, with many expecting them to fall away when tested but their momentum has carried them through to the final 4 games of the season with a 5 point advantage. Ranieri has rarely changed his side, and why would you change a winning formula?
To have a goalscorer in the form Vardy has been this term gives Leicester another dimension, knowing with the right service, he will put the ball in the back of the net. It’s a huge confidence boost for all but how will the dressing room react without him?
Friday’s news conference was the first time Claudio Ranieri has openly admitted his side’s title aspirations after months of deflecting talk of a title challenge. They’ve played the underdog all season despite leading the league since the opening weeks, so now can Leicester face the pressure and pick up three points?
Some say the pendulum in the title race has swung to North London with the momentum (there’s that word again) with Tottenham. They have been without Vardy before this season but never in these circumstances so now this will arguably be Ranieri’s men toughest test of the season. Everyone will be expecting a reaction against a Swansea City side with nothing to play for following last week’s draw; on paper they should win it but to coin a phrase of Sir Alex Ferguson’s, ‘squeaky bum time’ has found more than a few side out when push has come to shove.