Randers 1-3 Leicester City: 3 Things learned from UEFA Conference League

Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images) /
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Leicester City
Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images) /

Leicester City has qualified for the Round of 16 in the UEFA Conference League’s inaugural season, after comfortably beating Danish side, Randers, over two legs. The majority of the Foxes’ work was done in the first-leg, ensuring a mismatched second-leg performance still confirmed qualification. What three things did I learn from the trip to Denmark?

A team that includes James Maddison is dependent on him

After fielding James Maddison as part of the wingers, and also dropping him to the bench in recent games, Brendan Rodgers reverted to having Maddison inside his midfield-three. This created a de facto, 2-1 split in midfield and adjusted Leicester’s 4-3-3 attacking formation, into more of a 4-2-3-1 — with Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi making up the defensive-midfield duo, and allowing a spot in the number 10 (attacking-midfield) role for Maddison.

This creates a centred nature to the formation, as the creative hub is placed directly behind the striker — Kelechi Iheanacho, alongside the two wingers; Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman, and as already mentioned, slightly adjacent to the defensive-midfielders with an option of verticality. But, there’s also the demand that James Maddison puts on himself to be involved in the game, even by dropping into depth to receive.

Inadvertently, the Foxes become very dependable on the attacking-midfielder and rely upon his output to create. This was clearly evident in the match versus the Danes, as a quiet first-half performance from Maddison coincided with a lacklustre half of football from Rodgers’ side. He was central to their turnover issues, often surrendering possession in defence and looking to find creative passing lanes behind the Danish defence, with little regard for controlling the game.

Yet, like he has shown on multiple occasions this season, the two moments of quality — to win the match, came from his right-foot. The first, was an inch-perfect free-kick that dropped into the top left-hand corner, while the second required a clever orientation of his body, opening up the angle to the far-side of the goal before another inch-perfect finish found the top right-hand corner. All inside of four minutes of football. That secured the win for the Foxes.

However, as impressive as those two strikes were, Maddison wasn’t performing to his best on the evening — albeit, his overall performances this season have been one of the best at the club. Too easily conceding possession, not impacting the game when the ball was at his feet, and a negative in the immobile press Leicester seemingly opted for.