Just days after a massive and potentially decisive game at the top of the Premier League, there is now one at the bottom. Leicester host Everton on Monday night in a huge fight for top-flight survival, with the Foxes 18th, one place and one point above the Toffees. Whoever wins will leap out of the relegation zone and take a big step towards safety. Former Arsenal and Everton defender Martin Keown said on Football Focus: “Whoever loses that goes down. When you look at the fixtures both teams have to play, it’s getting quite tough.”
Leicester are in marginally the better form, having won one of their previous six Premier League games – a 2-1 win against Wolves on 22 April. That came after four successive defeats and they followed that up with a draw against Leeds in their last outing. Leicester have strong attacking options which will be key to their survival but defensively there is a huge question mark as they have not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League since beating West Ham 2-0 on 12 November. Former Brighton striker Glenn Murray said: “I feel the problem goes right back to a very rash decision in the summer – letting Kasper Schmeichel go. He’s a top goalkeeper and he’s an organiser, he’s always vocal and organising. To let a player of his stature – on the field and in the changing room – leave the club and not replace him, that’s where the trouble started.”
Everton have taken three points from their last six games but that came from three draws. They have not won since 11 March and their last away victory was way back on 1 October, when they beat Southampton 2-1. That was just one of two away wins this season for the Toffees. Everton have a better record than Leicester defensively, having conceded 50 goals to the Foxes’ 57. However, Leicester have countered their frailties at the back with goals, having scored 44 in 33 games, compared to just 25 for Everton. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has struggled with injuries this season, has scored just once – in a 3-0 win against Crystal Palace back in October.
Leicester boss Dean Smith says all the players have bought into the battle for survival, regardless of whether they are contracted to the club beyond this summer or not. Everton beat Arsenal and Leeds in two of Sean Dyche’s first three games following his appointment on 30 January but they have won just one of the 10 games since then. Asked why his side’s form has declined, Dyche said: “Nerves, tension, focus, build-up to games. There have been injuries, suspensions, different players coming in and out the side, all those things go into that.”
Everton just escaped relegation last season under Frank Lampard, securing Premier League survival with a memorable 3-2 win against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park. Toffees fans have expressed their frustrations at the club’s owners for overseeing another season of struggle. Former Leicester and Everton striker Kevin Campbell said: “From top to bottom, the club looks to be a mess. I’m frightened for them. I still think they will stay up and there is enough quality in the squad. But I’m not crazy enough to think they can’t go down.” Former Leicester defender Dion Dublin said: “I was lucky enough to get out of two relegation fights with Coventry. You just have to concentrate on your next game, get over the line, get something and start again. It drains you.” Monday night’s game is sure to be a tense affair as both teams fight for survival in the Premier League.