A game against the champions is not what would be in the minds of a team struggling for form, but that is exactly what Manchester United have when they host Leicester City at Old Trafford this weekend. A run of three consecutive defeats in all competitions came to an end with a shallow performance against Northampton Town in the EFL Cup. Leicester may have suffered a 4-2 loss against Chelsea in the same competition, but Claudio Ranieri chooses to rest a number of first-team stars like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
Reigning PFA Player of the Year Mahrez is undoubtedly one of Leicester’s main men and he has finally shown signs of returning to form with two goals in his last two games. Playing as the right midfielder, he will try to provide as many attacking balls for Vardy to feed upon. As the right back, Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia will not have the task of keeping Mahrez quiet. Instead, the former Wigan Athletic player, who is not a natural defender, will have to go forward and possibly match with the tenacity of Mahrez.
Tottenham defender Kyle Walker has been one of the best right-backs in the Premier League this season. Despite not being natural in this position, Valencia has better statistics than Walker when the game is only about pure numbers. Valencia has made 2.6 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game. In the attacking side, Walker has only been slightly better than Valencia. His two assists are the only major difference considering that both have been averaging around one key pass and dribble per game. Valencia, though, has had very less bad touches per game (0.2).
Luke Shaw will be the player who has to look after Mahrez and the former Southampton left-back can more than match the pace of the Algerian international. The fact that the Algerian has not been at his best so far this campaign could help United.
On the contrary, though, Valencia will have to contribute something meaningful in attack even while keeping an eye on the opposition and the incredibly dangerous counter-attacks of Leicester City. One of the biggest strengths of Valencia is getting to the byline and providing dangerous crosses, which then could bring Zlatan Ibrahimovic into the game. Averaging 1.4 crosses per game this season, Valencia will be expected to offer more in the match against Leicester.
Yes, Valencia and Mahrez play in different positions, but Valencia could easily match the tenacity of Mahrez at this point in time.