West Ham United-Leicester City Preview
Looking to shake out of their first true funk of the season, overachieving Leicester City try to bounce back Wednesday at home versus West Ham United.
The Foxes (14-3-6) continue to be the primary surprise package of 2019-20 along with promoted Sheffield United, though the Midlands side continue to hold down a Champions League spot. Leicester City, though, have slipped to third in the table with back-to-back losses, three back of two-time champions Manchester City but still six better than Chelsea for fourth.
Brendan Rodgers has some tinkering to do, however, after the Foxes were defeated 2-1 at Burnley on Sunday. Jamie Vardy had a chance to put Leicester City ahead from the spot on 68 minutes but was stoned by Nick Pope. That miss loomed large 11 minutes later when the Foxes conceded a go-ahead goal to Ashley Westwood, continuing a stretch in which Rodgers' side have gone 2-1-4 in their last seven in league play.
"I think everyone is disappointed with that," said Harvey Barnes, who staked Leicester to a first-half lead, to LCFC TV. "I think performance-wise it was a lot better for us. We created a lot of chances, but you look at the result and yes, it's disappointing.
"The 'keeper (Nick Pope) had a great game himself. We created a lot of chances but maybe [we were] not clinical enough on the day, but as a team it was a lot more positive going forward."
The Foxes are also in a hectic stretch of schedule with this quick turnaround - they also play in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday at Brentford before their second-leg Carabao Cup tie at Aston Villa on Tuesday, which they are 1-1 on aggregate.
Rodgers expressed pleasure with Barnes' performance, as the former academy standout scored for the second time in three matches and noted his team played better on the offensive end, but that they also must be better to avoid critical lapses like they had Sunday.
"That's the big disappointment for us, that if you win games, you have to earn that right," Rodgers said. "Like I say, we played better today. We were more dynamic in our game and created opportunities, but we have to be better."
West Ham (6-5-11) continue to plod along in the relegation scrap, entering this contest 16th on 23 points and one point above the drop. The Irons played out a dour 1-1 draw versus Everton at home Saturday, with defender Issa Diop giving them a short-lived lead in the first half that vanished before intermission.
Much like their upcoming opponents, there is a sense of frustrating bubbling around the east London side as they struggle to gain upward traction in the table.
"Maybe [we look more solid defensively] but we conceded a goal and that's the problem," Diop told the club's official website. "For most part of the game we were solid, and I hope we are going to keep it this way. It's true we are more solid and of course, when you concede less goals it's easier to win the game, so I hope, like I said, we are going to keep this way and we are going to win more games."
David Moyes has rejiggered the defense quickly since his arrival - West Ham have shipped just three goals in his three matches to start his second stint with the club - but that has not done much to curry favour with supporters, who staged a pre-match protest outside the stadium that also marked the 10th anniversary of David Gold and David Sullivan taking over the club.
Injuries have hamstrung Moyes to a degree - he is without key attacking options Andriy Yarmolenko, Michail Antonio, and Felipe Anderson, and first-year signing Sebastian Haller is feeling the weight of his contract. After getting on everyone's radar with 15 goals in 29 matches for Eintracht Frankfurt last season, Haller has six in 23 matches in all competitions, but only two in his last 15.
"It is [tough on him]," Moyes told The Times. "Today we would be saying 'Come on, we got you a couple of really big opportunities, a chance to get a goal or a couple,' but we need him because he gives us a bit of a focal point and at least we have [one], when we can't be good all the time with the ball. We need him to link us up and he needs to get us the ball."
Leicester City were able to scrap for a 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture last month, which also marked the end of the tenure of Moyes' predecessor Manuel Pellegrini. Despite overturning nine of their starting 11 from a Boxing Day loss to Liverpool, Ayoze Perez set up goals by Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray on either side of halftime and bracketing a goal by West Ham's Pablo Fornals.
The Foxes are seeking their second double over West Ham in four seasons and are 6-4-1 in the last 11 meetings between the clubs in all competitions.
Updated January 20, 2020