Foxes mauled in Boxing Day hunt

In what should have been an enjoyable and competitive game to resume the Premier League season, Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United side quickly established a comfortable lead that would see then cruise to a 3-goal lead before the break.

As Foxes fans collected their free beers from outside the ground, the team news broke – and arguably the most notable absence was James Maddison. Heavily linked with a move to Newcastle next month, the attacking midfielder was sidelined with a knee injury. Brendan Rodgers later revealed that the physio team are unsure what the problem is, with the pain differing from what the player initially suffered before the World Cup.

Patson Daka started ahead of Jamie Vardy for the Foxes – who played in a rough 433 formation with Barnes and Praet on the wings. Dewsbury-Hall, Soumaré and Tielemans formed the midfield, with Luke Thomas, Wout Faes, Daniel Amartey and Timothy Castagne starting in defence. Danny Ward was once again selected over Daniel Iversen in goal.

Newcastle United played a similar formation, with Chris Wood leading the line. He was supported by Joelinton and Almirón on the flanks, with Joe Willock, Guimarães and Longstaff in midfield. Dan Burn, Sven Botman, Fabian Schär and Kieran Trippier formed what would be an impenetrable defence – with Nick Pope between the sticks.

After a period of applause for 1966 World Cup Winner, George Cohen, who sadly passed away before Christmas, the game got underway. Newcastle fans had something to cheer about before long, with Amartey tripping Joelinton in the box with less than 90 seconds on the clock. Chris Wood’s strike down the middle was enough to get past Danny Ward, and the Magpies had a crucial early goal.

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The atmosphere in the away end was simply electric – pure passion that was unrelenting throughout the 90 minutes, as the fans knew that a win would see their side head into second place, behind only Arsenal. Eddie Howe’s side found an opportunity to double their lead in the 7th minute through Almirón – with the Paraguayan slotting a spectacular finish past Danny Ward.

The hosts were forced into an early change after Dennis Praet received a blow to the ribs from Joelinton. The Belgian was replaced by ex-Newcastle forward Ayoze Pérez, who would go on to be the Foxes’ best player in the game.

Leicester had several first-half chances, though none materialised. Patson Daka’s reluctance to unleash a shot appeared to cost his side – with the Zambian instead preferring to offload to another player. At the other end, Leicester were lucky not to concede a third – with Danny Ward rushing off his line to clear the ball from Joelinton’s feet, arriving just in time to prevent a certain goal.

The visitors did find their third goal with just over thirty minutes on the clock – this time it was Joelinton on the score sheet. The Brazilian was able to jump higher than Soumaré – connecting with Trippier’s cross and sending the ball past Ward who appeared helpless between the sticks.

Half time couldn’t have come soon enough for Brendan Rodgers’ side – who found themselves being pinned back by a strategically spot-on Newcastle side. Vardy replaced Patson Daka at the break, and created a chance shortly afterwards – though his low cross through the box was unable to find Harvey Barnes. Both teams had opportunities in the opening period of the second half, with none coming to anything. Soumaré and Barnes were replaced in the 72nd minute, with Ndidi and Iheanacho taking their places. Iheanacho cut in from the right-wing and lined up a shot shortly after entering the field of play, but his effort was blazed over the bar and resulted in a goal-kick.

With the game well and truly wrapped up, Howe made four changes – with Almirón, Willock, Wood and Longstaff all making way for Saint-Maximin, Murphy, Ritchie and Anderson. The final whistle saw the final few Leicester fans make a swift dash for the exits – though most had already done so about ten minutes prior.

This result leaves Brendan Rodgers with plenty to ponder. Could Maddison’s return see an improvement in the squad? Will he even play in Leicester blue again, or is he off to Newcastle? As for Eddie Howe, his side move into second – albeit temporarily, having played two games more than the teams that surround them in the table.

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