Venue: King Power Stadium
Kick off: 9PM
The Premier League’s top two face off at the end of a Boxing Day bonanza when Leicester City welcome newly-crowned world champions Liverpool to the King Power Stadium.
The Foxes missed the chance to close the gap on their visitors during Liverpool’s time away at the Club World Cup, leaving the Reds still 10 points clear at the top of the table as they return to Premier League action.
It has looked for some time as though this will be a special season for Liverpool, and their jaunt to Qatar will be looked back on as another significant milestone in that.
Now officially the best team in the world – a crown many would have bestowed upon them unofficially prior to Saturday’s Club World Cup final victory over Flamengo – the Reds have picked up a trophy they had never previously won to add to their UEFA Super Cup and Champions League.
The challenge from within the camp has been to become serial trophy winners, and as they approach the end of an unforgettable 2019 the focus is very much now on ending a 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England for a 19th time.
Victory today would take them a significant step towards that, temporarily lifting them 13 points clear at the top at least until Manchester City have the chance to close the gap to 11 when they face Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday.
As far as the stats go, though, the trip to Leicester will be Liverpool’s toughest test of the season so far, with the Foxes unbeaten in front of their own fans this campaign.
Liverpool have passed almost every test that has come their way this season, though, including in the reverse fixture when James Milner’s stoppage-time penalty kept up their 100% start to the campaign.
Now with 17 games gone Liverpool have still only dropped two points, and victory in this match would see them become only the second team – after Man City in 2017-18 – to reach the 50-point mark before the halfway stage of the season.
Should Jurgen Klopp’s side maintain their current form for the rest of the season then they are projected to reach a scarcely-believable tally of 110 points, although things do begin getting tougher for them again now.
Liverpool’s next six matches all come against teams currently in the top eight of the table, while they also have the addition of a Merseyside derby against Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton in the FA Cup third round to look forward to.
With that run coming at the busiest time of year for Liverpool, and the growing injury list which has already affected them in December, it is over the coming weeks that the chasing pair of Leicester and Man City will hold out most hope of a slip-up which has so far not arrived.
The possibility of inflicting one of those themselves is too good to pass up for Leicester, who must feel that only a win will do if they harbour serious ambitions of securing a second Premier League title this season.
There is never a good time to face Liverpool at the moment, but this could be the best given the Reds’ injury problems and the fact that they have only recently returned from Qatar, where they were taken all the way to extra time in the final.
Leicester are actually hurtling along at a better pace than they did in their title-winning campaign four years ago, when they had one fewer point at this stage of the season, so it is only Liverpool’s relentlessness which has arguably denied them even more plaudits.
Brendan Rodgers can match his former side in some areas, though, with these two teams boasting the joint-best defensive records in the league and Leicester having played one game more than the Reds too.
Rodgers himself admitted that Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Man City proved how far they have to go until they reach the very best teams, though, with Kevin De Bruyne inspiring the champions to a come-from-behind win.
Leicester have not lost back-to-back matches under Rodgers yet, and should they avoid that fate in the most testing of Christmas double-headers then it will be further evidence that they are ready to at least secure a Champions League return this season.
Eleven points is currently the gap to fifth-placed Sheffield United, so it would take a drastic dip in form for Leicester to throw away a top-four spot from here, although they will also recognise the difficulty of producing a second half of the season which is as impressive as the first half has been.
There has been a slight slump already in December, with a home draw against struggling Norwich City ending their club-record winning run before needing penalties to beat Everton and losing to Man City at the weekend.
However, those dropped points at Norwich were only the second occasion they had failed to win a league game at the King Power Stadium this season and the first time since the opening day, and their unbeaten run in front of their own fans now stretches to 11 games.
Indeed, the Foxes have only lost one of their 14 home games since Rodgers took charge and have conceded a league-low five goals at the King Power all season, so they will be as confident as anyone for the visit of the leaders on Boxing Day.
Leicester possible XI: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Perez, Tielemans, Ndidi, Maddison, Barnes, Vardy.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.