The final visitors to Selhurst Park this year are the Foxes so TEB had a chat with JIM KNIGHT on the season so far, thoughts on the game and much more.
Q. How did you rate the last campaign for the Foxes?
I think it was a satisfying season. Obviously, it was tinged with disappointment at missing out on the Champions League given how much of an advantage we had going into lockdown, but overall it was encouraging. Our playing style continues to develop under Brendan Rodgers and there are some promising players coming through too. Maybe the UCL just came a season too soon for us.
Q. What was the general view heading into the new season and what were the expectations?
It’s tricky to know what a “good” season is for Leicester now. We’ve tasted huge success in the recent past but we don’t have the resources of many of the “elite” teams. I think given where the squad and club was going into the new campaign, we’d want to make a good go of the Europa League while remaining in the conversation for a top six place.
Q. How far do you think Leicester can go in the Europa League having qualified from the group?
We had quite a favourable group, so I don’t think we should expect to be in the very late stages but we’re capable of beating most teams in the competition on our day. Given the tough domestic schedule I think a quarter final appearance would be a good achievement, anything more than that should be viewed as a bonus.
Q. It was a peculiar summer transfer window for everyone, but how active were Leicester and are there any areas that will need attention in January?
We lost Ben Chilwell to Chelsea, which was a big loss. As it happens, it appears Timothy Castagne coming in has really helped the full back depth, combined with James Justin developing into a really solid prospect. Overall, I think it was important we held onto key players more than spending big to bring in more players, and we did that for the most part.
It’ll likely be the same story in January, albeit I can’t see many clubs spending huge given the wider financial issues in the game at the moment. Maybe we’ll look at adding another striker to the mix but it seems to be a problem position for us in the market so I’m not holding my breath. Jamie Vardy remains our main man but there’s not much in the way of reliable back up right now.
Q. We are keen to see young players coming through the ranks here at TEB so is there anyone that we should keep an eye on who could make the breakthrough into the Foxes first eleven?
He’s not under the radar anymore but James Justin is giving Rodgers some serious selection headaches when everyone is fit. He’s developed really well since being thrown in at the deep end when Ricardo got injured just before the lockdown.
Luke Thomas is probably the player who’ll see regular minutes as the season progresses. He’s a really talented academy prospect so it would be good to see him given more opportunities this season. He’s started a couple of league games due to injuries elsewhere but looks really calm and assured so far.
Q. The Premier League has looked pretty open so far this season, do you see that continuing into being the most open title race for years?
Absolutely, yes. I think it could be the case that the league winners do so with 80-odd points, unlike the insanely high tallies we’ve seen from Liverpool and Man City in recent years.
The lack of “home advantage” seems to have had a significant impact and I’d expect more teams to take points off each other this season as a result. Obviously, everyone wants fans back in the stadiums as soon as it’s safe to do so but at least we might get a very open title race between multiple teams if this trend continues.
Q. The use of VAR continues to frustrate everyone, so where do you sit with the ongoing debate?
I think it’s been a success in some areas such as reviewing potential red cards, but other areas have proved much tougher to integrate. I know the handball rule has changed several times recently and that’s not a fault of VAR per se, but the authorities should have been clearer on what the situation was before the new season.
I don’t have a massive issue with offside as it stands. It’s a catch 22 because any margin of error being built in won’t stop the debate, it’ll just alter the tone slightly. It’s possible for the technology to be used and for people to rightly feel hard done by, the two aren’t mutually exclusive in my opinion.
Q. What do you make of Palace this season?
I think Palace can be really fun to watch at times. I’m a big fan of Eze having seen his performances at QPR so I was excited at his arrival into the Premier League and it’s great to see him starting regularly now.
I’m not sure there are many other teams whose prospects depend so much on one player as Palace’s do with Wilf Zaha. That’s not to talk down the rest of the squad, but I think the impact he has on the whole team is just incredible. Hopefully he stays fit for the majority of the campaign.
I feel like you know what you get with Palace now, they’re set up well, generally pretty solid and will take some big scalps from time to time. It wouldn’t be a shock to see them finish anywhere in the 8th to 14th range on any given season but you rarely worry about them going down or pushing into the European picture.
Q. Name one player from each team that you believe will be a threat to the opposition in this match.
Eze should provide a real test to Justin down the left flank. Two players with plenty of energy and pace so that’s a battle I’ll be watching closely. Justin loves to get forward but he’ll have to be mindful of being caught out of position.
On the Leicester side it’s always Jamie Vardy. It’ll be interesting to see if Palace push on and offer up any space in behind the backline or if Cahill & Co try and drop deep to negate the long ball over the top.
Q. …and finally, your all important prediction?
Leicester have done their best work away from home this season so I’ll go for a 2-1 win for the Foxes.