Leicester City-Southampton Preview
Sometimes it's amazing how quickly fortunes can change in football. Such is the case for Leicester City.
Down the stretch of last season, the Foxes were fighting for survival, but two months into the current campaign, the club is looking to continue their excellent form Saturday against Southampton at St. Mary's Stadium.
New manager Claudio Ranieri, who replaced Nigel Pearson, has Leicester City in fifth place in the Premier League after eight matches with 15 points after a 2-1 win over Norwich City prior to the international break.
England international Jamie Vardy opened the scoring at Carrow Road with a penalty strike in the 28th minute and Jordan Schlupp doubled the advantage for the visitors two minutes into the second half. Dieumerci Mbokani pulled one back for the Canaries in the 68th minute, but the Foxes (4-3-1) held on to take three points.
Leicester City's quick turnaround under Ranieri can most easily be attributed to a strong attack, led by Vardy, which has produced 17 goals - good for second most in the division. The club has also scored more than one goal in each of its four victories.
The Foxes are also one of three teams, along with Everton and West Ham, to carry an impressive unbeaten away record into Saturday's clash, and will need to keep that form going if they hope to get a result on the south coast in a difficult place to play.
The Foxes could be a bit shorthanded when they line up to face Southampton as Schlupp and Riyad Mahrez were both absent from Thursday's training session after playing for Ghana and Algeria, respectively, during the international break.
"Today (Thursday), we had a training session. Riyad and Schlupp didn't train because they arrived this morning and they must recover," Ranieri said. "Tomorrow, I'll check everybody."
Southampton (3-2-3) comes into the clash aiming for a third straight win in league play following an impressive showing in a 3-1 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge prior to the international break.
Willian opened the scoring for Chelsea after 10 minutes, but the Saints stormed back with three unanswered strikes from Steven Davis, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle.
They key for Southampton will be to try and maintain that consistency in the final third. The club has scored two or more goals in five of their eight matches, while being shut out in the other three fixtures.
Conversely, the defence has been a bit shaky as the Saints have allowed 10 goals through eight matches, a far cry from last season when the club didn't allow its 10th goal of the season until December.
The Saints are also winless in three of their last four matches against Leicester City in all competitions, a trend Southampton manager Ronald Koeman hopes to reverse with a fresh and confident squad following the break.
"It's always important for the players to come back with confidence," Koeman said. "Good confidence in themselves is an important part of a football player, but if it is a comfortable situation then it's dangerous. You need to keep your focus."
Both teams won their home meetings 2-0 last season, with Southampton winning at St. Mary's in November on a pair of Shane Long goals in the final 15 minutes. The Foxes won 2-0 at the King Power Stadium in May when Mahrez scored a brace inside of 20 minutes.