Some pre-match reading:
Bilic and Rogers have met just once before in the Premier League, and it did not end well for poor Brendan. Fortunately for him the assured Caglar Soyuncu is unlikely to endure the sort of nightmare Dejan Lovren did that day. Right…?
And for the sake of balance:
Very good – but how long can he keep doing it for?
So Bilic opts to keep Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin on the bench (20 goals between them last season) in favour of young Irishman Callum Robinson (three goals last season). In defence, the top-flight experience of Ahmed Hegazi is omitted for the grizzled knowhow of Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi. And is midfielder Romaine Sawyers the Premier League’s first St Kitts and Nevis international? Answers on a postcard.
As for Leicester, Timothy Castagne makes his debut following an £18m move from Atalanta and James Maddison is fit enough only for the bench. But it’s a strong bench, and in Tielemans, Barnes, Perez and Vardy, it’s a front four of out-and-out attackers as well. The formation? Your guess is as good as mine.
West Brom: Johnstone, Furlong, Gibbs, O’Shea, Bartley, Ajayi, Sawyers, Livermore, Diangana, Pereira, Robinson.
Subs: Button, Hegazi, Harper, Edwards, Grosicki, Robson-Kanu, Austin.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Justin, Castagne, Soyuncu, Ndidi, Mendy, Praet, Tielemans, Barnes, Perez, Vardy.
Subs: Ward, Maddison, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Choudhury, Fuchs, Thomas.
Leicester flying high in second place! Brendan Rodgers in contention for manager of the year! A top-four finish nailed on! Global pandemics confined to implausible dystopian fiction!
Seems a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? In fact, it wasn’t all that long: a little less than half a football season, in fact. This year. But since then the mighty Foxes have seen their own steep downturn in form, a brutal raft of injuries, the rapid resurgence of Manchester United, the more slow-burn resurgence of Spurs and Arsenal, a 33rd birthday for Jamie Vardy, and a terrifying summer transfer splurge from Chelsea.
And suddenly Leicester’s new normal looks a lot like the old normal: trying to keep pace with the moneyed elite while having their best players cherry-picked from under their nose: Ben Chilwell’s summer departure the most obvious consequence of their failure to make the top four.
Maybe they should have taken some tips from Slaven Bilic’s Baggies, who kept up their momentum through the winter, up to lockdown and after the restart to seal second place and promotion with relative ease. Their return to the top flight is hugely welcome, not just for the heavy-metal machismo of Bilic but because of his side’s similarly boisterous playing style.
Thought Leeds were fun? This lot scored as many goals last season, and conceded 10 more too. To those ends, much focus be on Brazilian winger Matheus Periera, key to last season’s entertainment, and young playmaker Grady Diangana, another key creator and whose departure from east London had the West Ham captain up in arms.
Gone are the days, it seems, when promoted teams pin their hopes on two banks of four and a big lad up top. These days they tend to go out and play – and West Brom will certainly do that. As, of course, will Rodgers’ Leicester, who if nothing else tend to guarantee fun. So this should be a blast. Get the kettle on.