Braga 3-3 Leicester: a game of two halves for the Foxes

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Jamie Vardy of Leicester City (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
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Leicester City
Jamie Vardy of Leicester City (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Leicester City’s perfect UEFA Europa League record came to an end in Portugal. The Foxes travelled to Braga and it took a 95th minute equaliser to rescue a point for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

The footballing world was surprised by the ease in which Leicester City beat SC Braga in the first game between the clubs, it turned out to be a 4-0 victory at The King Power Stadium. However, this time out, the Portuguese-side proved to be a much harder outfit to beat.

In the Foxes home leg, SC Braga had few key players absent from Carlos Carvahal’s starting XI and none had more impact on their return than creative forward, Ricardo Horta – who troubled the defensive line all game and was rewarded with an assist for the second goal. With a “full strength” squad to choose from, and Leicester City continuing to rotate peripheral players back into the side – it was quite clearly going to be a difficult fixture.

I’ve said on numerous Twitter threads, and in a couple of articles, that Brendan Rodgers would rarely – if ever – play Cengiz Under and Harvey Barnes in the same front three, but, to my surprise they both accompanied Kelechi Iheanacho in the starting XI.

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Firstly, my reasoning for always excluding one of the two is that their roles/profiles are fairly similar, whereas Rodgers has outlined a preference for balance. Essentially, both players thrive when playing on-the-shoulder (because of their abundance of pace), and enjoy carrying the ball at their feet. This makes the front three one-dimensional if they’re both in the side, however, playing Iheanacho did allow Rodgers to experiment, and here’s why..

With Jamie Vardy as the focal point, you’ve got another “on-the-shoulder” forward who utilises the space behind the oppositions defensive line – whereas Iheanacho wants to drop into the “number 10” role and orchestrate play. Ordinarily, Barnes accompanies Vardy and it’s one of James Maddison or Dennis Praet on the opposing wing – so you get two runners (Barnes/Vardy) and one creator – achieving a balance.

In the game versus Braga, Iheanacho was utilised as the “creative player” while the wingers were the runners. I’m still a firm believer that they (Barnes/Under) shouldn’t start together, because throughout the first-half you saw how one-dimensional Leicester City were. There was no connective play through the midfield, and because of the natural movements of the wingers (behind the defensive line), the Foxes defenders kept playing hopeful long-balls into space and turning over possession.