Leicester City have been one of the Premier League’s best teams so far in the 2020/21 season, but the wheels are coming off late in the campaign for the second time in a row. The Foxes have even topped the table on several occasions this year, but a devastating 3-2 loss to fellow European challengers West Ham United in mid-April narrowed the gap from the chasing pack to a mere two points. Ghana defender Daniel Amartey was substituted at half-time in that loss, a game in which he was terrorized for 45 minutes by resurgent England midfielder Jesse Lingard.
Missing James Maddison, Ayoze Perez, and Hamza Choudhury due to disciplinary reasons, there was a distinct lack of energy in Leicester’s midfield that made a second-half comeback too little, too late. Maddison especially has been electric this season – he’s one of a crop of exciting young players for an England national team preparing for the European Championships this summer. The Three Lions sit joint-favorites at 5/1 to win the tournament in the Euro 2020 betting markets and their wealth of young attacking talent is a big reason why.
Despite sitting in the top four for most of the year, Leicester’s odds of staying there have shrunk slowly over the course of the season. Brendan Rodger’s side started the season red-hot and had pundits asking if they could be title contenders as recently as January. But with star striker Jamie Vardy contributing only one goal in his last 17 games, coupled with young attackers Maddison and Harvey Barnes both missing spells through injury, the Foxes have struggled for results. Previously the teams chasing Champions League football were competing for one spot below the Manchester clubs and Leicester, but now squads like West Ham will be wondering if they can steal further up the table into third.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sIYYrHjNqMY" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
In many ways, then, this season has mirrored last for Leicester. Last season they sat in the Champions League places for most of the year, only to fall out of the top four after a miserable run of form to end the campaign. This year they finish their season with games against Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham, their competitors for the top four places – how they perform in those crunch-time games could define what tier of European football they play at next season.
Missing Champions League football for a second season running could be catastrophic for this Leicester team. Their dip in form last year preceded losing left-back Ben Chilwell to Chelsea in the summer transfer window, and European teams may again come calling for Leicester’s star players if they fail to make the top four again. Among those names will surely be Wilfred Ndidi, the defensive anchor of Leicester’s midfield, and Barnes, who has added goals to his game this season to play his way into the England conversation. Young defenders James Justin, 23, and Wesley Fofana, 20, could also be targeted by teams further up the league or across Europe after strong seasons at the back.