Manchester United face another stern away test on Thursday evening when they travel to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City.
The Red Devils, under new manager Erik ten Hag, endured a miserable start to the campaign but have improved in recent weeks to beat Liverpool and Southampton in the last two games.
In contrast, Leicester City are currently bottom of the Premier League table with one point from four points. They head into the midweek fixture after losing 2-1 to 10-man Chelsea last weekend.
Here’s a look at three key player battles that could determine the outcome of the Premier League clash at the King Power Stadium.
Diogo Dalot vs Harvey Barnes
Diogo Dalot has been Manchester United’s first-choice right-back under Erik ten Hag. After a slow start to the season, he has shown improvement in his performances in the last two games. The Portuguese was solid against Liverpool’s Luis Diaz and backed it up with a fine display in Man United’s win over Southampton, where he bagged an assist too.
Against Leicester City, Ten Hag is likely to persist with Dalot at right-back as he looks to build a stable back four. He is expected to come up against the tricky Harvey Barnes, who has been one of the very few credible performers for the Foxes this term.
Barnes scored a fine goal in Leicester’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea last weekend and will be raring to make a mark against Man United. With his burst of pace and intelligent movement, the English winger will look to make runs in behind the visitors’ defence and cause problems.
Thus, it will be intriguing to watch how Dalot copes with Barnes in midweek.
Bruno Fernandes vs Wilfred Ndidi
Bruno Fernandes has shown signs of getting back the spark that he lost last season.
With Harry Maguire dropped to the bench, Fernandes has led Man United to back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Southampton. His excellent half-volley strike gave United the points against Southampton, and the Portuguese playmaker will look to lead his team by an example at Leicester City.
But Fernandes could have his hands full against Wilfred Ndidi, who is expected to be recalled into the starting XI after coming on as a substitute in Leicester City’s defeat to Chelsea. A tough-tackling midfielder, Ndidi will be tasked to get tight to the Man United playmaker and cut the supply lines.
If the Nigerian international can stop Fernandes from influencing the play in the final third, the Foxes would have a good chance of winning their first game of the season.
Jamie Vardy vs Lisandro Martinez
Jamie Vardy had an off-day against Chelsea last time out as he missed three big chances.
It was one of those afternoons for the former England striker, but his desire to make darting runs behind the opposition defence was a positive if Brendan Rodgers had to take any. On Thursday, Vardy needs to be clinical against a Man United defence that has shown some promise in the last two games.
Since the debacle at Brentford, Lisandro Martinez has become a solid member of Man United’s backline, dishing out impressive performances against Liverpool and Southampton. A lot has been spoken about his height, which is a significant factor for a central defender in the Premier League, but the Argentinean compensates for that deficiency with his tenacity, aggression and ability on the ball.
Vardy will be the man closest to Martinez all game long, trying to unsettle him by playing on his shoulder. Thus, at the heart of the United defence, Martinez would have to put on his A-game to restrict a wily fox in Vardy.
I am Rohan Sengupta from one of the busiest cities in India, Mumbai. A Journalism graduate with a keen interest in sports, football is something I simply cannot live without and writing, discussing and analyzing the game is what I do 24*7.