3.10pm EST 15:10 7 min: A poor pass from Alisson puts Henderson in trouble and the makeshift right-back tangles with Maddison, who goes down looking for a penalty. Martin Atkinson waves the Leicester man’s appeals away. 3.08pm EST 15:08 6 min: Gray scoots down the right flank and tries to release Albrighton. Matip steps in
7 min: A poor pass from Alisson puts Henderson in trouble and the makeshift right-back tangles with Maddison, who goes down looking for a penalty. Martin Atkinson waves the Leicester man’s appeals away.
6 min: Gray scoots down the right flank and tries to release Albrighton. Matip steps in to win the ball and Liverpool set off again. Salah drives down the right flank, cuts inside and floats a ball to the far post for Firmino. The Brazilian takes it on his chest, dips past Ricardo and tries to fire past Schmeichel. This time the Leicester goalkeeper makes a stunning save. From the resulting corner Mane should score, only to head wide at the near post. Leicester are rocking.
5 min: Leicester have barely had a sniff yet. It also looked like the snow helped Mane make that chance. The Leicester defenders looked very uncertain on their feet.
Liverpool probe down the left, looking to make a fast start. Firmino schemes on the edge of the Leicester area and when a pass from the Brazilian squirts free, nobody’s more alert than Mane. He throws off Gray with a lovely body swerve and makes the space to send a low shot past Schmeichel and inside the bottom-left post! A seven-point lead beckons.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Leicester (Mane, 3 min)
What a start for Liverpool!
2 min: The snow that fell on the pitch before kick-off has made the surface a bit slow. Passes might hold up. But…
Peep! Leicester, all in blue, get the game underway on a snowy Anfield pitch. It looks cold tonight. But there’s a piping hot atmosphere at Anfield. They know how much this one means. It’s Leicester attacking the Kop in the first half. Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, is definitely at right-back.
After a rousing rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, there is a minute’s silence for Emiliano Sala and Dave Ibbotson. It’s impeccably observed.
Here come the teams! “Liverpool! Liverpool!” chant the Liverpool fans. “Leicester! Leicester! Leicester!” chant the Leicester fans. Other chants are available.
“The question behind many Liverpool fan’s thousand yard stare is what cruel form of deflation fate is serving up for us if the lead does build, expectation does grow and a title looms into view,” Ian Copestake says. “So for now let’s just win some games and enjoy the ride!”
Ah, the torment of being a fan. Is it possible to be optimistic? The default setting is pessimism for most. Easier that way.
Jurgen Klopp is asked about Manchester City’s defeat last night. “I had a long working day and came home late. I went to my missus and we didn’t watch the game, we watched a movie. When the final whistle happened and Newcastle won, my smart phone was buzz buzz buzz … and I really hate that. If they would have won we would have played tonight. If they lost we would have played tonight. We want to play football and if there is something to celebrate you will see it in my face then.”
Liverpool’s shortage of right-backs means Jordan Henderson is pushed back into defence. In the James Milner role. Milner is suspended after being sent off against Crystal Palace, so Georginio Wijnaldum comes in, while Xherdan Shaqiri replaces Fabinho.
Claude Puel makes three changes after Leicester’s 4-3 defeat to Wolves. Out go Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan and Harvey Barnes. In come Jonny Evans, Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray.
Liverpool: Alisson; Henderson, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Keita, Shaqiri; Salah, Firmino, Mane. Subs: Mignolet, Fabinho, Lovren, Lallana, Camacho, Origi, Sturridge.
Leicester: Schmeichel; Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Albrighton, Mendy, Ndidi, Gray; Maddison; Vardy. Subs: Ward, Morgan, Simpson, Choudhury, Barnes, Okazaki, Iheanacho.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
First Roy Hodgson, now Rafa Benitez; at this rate Liverpool will have the title sewn up in no time at all if they can persuade Manchester City’s next few opponents to hire Gerard Houllier, Roy Evans and Graeme Souness. All it takes, it seems, to turn the race into a procession is for former Liverpool managers to stand in Pep Guardiola’s way and come to Jurgen Klopp’s aid. Hodgson’s Crystal Palace managed it last month and Benitez did his old side a huge favour last night, with Newcastle’s shock win over City opening the door for Liverpool to establish a seven-point lead over the champions. All hail Rafa! Still a Kopite after all those years.
Presumably the locals be singing the Spaniard’s name lustily at Anfield this evening. After all, what an opportunity this is for Liverpool. They still have 15 games left and know there’s plenty of football to play – but a seven-point lead over City as they head into February is the stuff of dreams for a team who have only lost once in 23 matches. If they can handle Leicester tonight, they’ll be entitled to think that 29-year itch is going to be scratched in May.
Mind you, the question is whether they can keep a lid on all that bubbling emotion. We’ve been here before with Liverpool. We’ve seen what can happen. We know Klopp shouldn’t go asking Brendan Rodgers for any tips on keeping the pitch nice and slick. Instead Liverpool’s task here is not to get too far ahead of themselves; they need to maintain the calm, cold and ruthless mentality that has taken them this far, not to mention keep in mind that Leicester are a very good counterattacking side who have already beaten Chelsea and City this season. It isn’t over yet.
Kick-off: 8pm GMT.