3 Things to watch out for in Leicester’s Forest test

Nottingham Forest fans display a tifo (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Nottingham Forest fans display a tifo (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /
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Leicester City
GILLINGHAM, ENGLAND – JANUARY 07: Luke Thomas and Harvey Barnes of Leicester City arrive at the stadium prior to the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Gillingham and Leicester City at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on January 07, 2023 in Gillingham, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images) /

A defiant left-wing

Without James Maddison, all of Leicester’s creativity flows down the left. Either a marauding left-back/wing-back with Luke Thomas or Timothy Castagne, or an aggressive and ever-explosive Harvey Barnes will be the key for the Foxes to unlocking the Nottingham defence.

Despite the agenda against him, Barnes has accumulated the greatest xG and has the third best xG per 90: only behind less-played Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka. That is our danger man and the only real threat which can dominate, terrify, and create.

There is only one catch. The English winger must be confident he can beat his man. When facing their right-back, Barnes must show courage to run at them and explode past them. Should this not happen, then Rodgers’ side will struggle to break past a stiff low block which will be deployed.

At the same time, Nottingham’s primary threat is down the right. Whoever is at left-back and left-centre-back must be ever vigilant to the threat posed by Brennan Johnson. Creative, pacy, and clinical: he is their second best player for xG total, third for xG per 90, and second in goals scored, as well as second for assists. Nullify Johnson and that devastating counter-attacking force, and the Foxes will have a decent chance.

The return of Papy Mendy?

After a decent showing in the embers of the Newcastle United thrashing, Mendy illustrated that he can be a composed passer and help Leicester retain possession when necessary. Previously, the player has been behind Wilfred Ndidi in the pecking order, but that might change for this fixture.

I expect that Ndidi will still start, however, there is a likelihood that the Senegalese international will find himself called upon by Rodgers when the game is getting chaotic. Mendy would help to bring composure, defiance, and clinical passing, although he will not be creating any last gasp chances.

At the same time, there are plenty of injuries in midfield. Plenty of players out means more opportunities for players like Ayoze Perez, Papy Mendy, and others to play games and prove themselves.

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There will be a lot to work on in midfield. Morgan Gibbs-White, Jesse Lingard, Orel Mangala, etc. There are many decent midfielders in that team: although they have not all hit the ground running, they will need to be dealt with, and I think Mendy has become the man for the job.