Leicester City-Everton Preview

Leicester City look to put some distance between themselves and the emerging scrap for fourth in the table Wednesday when they face Everton at Goodison Park.

The Foxes (16-7-8) have yet to ignite offensively during Project Restart, totaling one goal through three matches. While that has been enough to see them pick up points in both their league contests, their closest pursuers have moved much closer.

In third place on 55 points, Leicester City are now just three points clear of fifth-place Wolverhampton. Pending Manchester City’s appeal of UEFA’s two-year ban on European play at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, fifth is currently good enough to enter the qualifying rounds of Champions League play for next season.

Brendan Rodgers’ side were denied their first trip to Wembley for the FA Cup semifinals since 1982 on Sunday, losing 1-0 at home to Chelsea. While the Foxes did outshoot the Pensioners 10-8, they put only three shots on frame – continuing a low rate of return in which 7 of their 36 shots have been on target in the three contests since returning.

“Obviously, the break has disrupted us a little bit, but I have great confidence in the squad,” Rodgers told the club’s official website. “We have to live with that expectancy and the fact that’s there means they’re doing something right. If a little bit of negativity comes, that’s fine, but they have to just focus on improving and getting better.

“With seven games to go, we’re in an absolutely brilliant position. We’ll be focusing on us, staying in the present, and looking to get the three points.”

Rodgers did not sound as optimistic regarding the status of playmaker James Maddison, who could be forced to miss a second straight contest with a knock. Still pressing for his 100th Premier League goal is Jamie Vardy, who still leads the top flight with 19 but has put just one shot on target in three matches since the restart.

Everton (11-8-12) still have a puncher’s chance of European play, entering this contest just four points behind seventh-place Tottenham Hotspur. The Toffees have been robust defensively during Project Restart, picking up four points in two matches without conceding a goal.

Carlo Ancelotti’s squad are coming off a 1-0 victory at last-place Norwich City last Wednesday when Michael Keane headed home Lucas Digne’s corner on 55 minutes after ghosting between two defenders. Everton yielded just one shot on frame, making things easy for Jordan Pickford as he notched his eighth clean sheet in league play.

“We played not well but focused with motivation,” Ancelotti told the Guardian. “When you are able to work together and show a good spirit defensively you can keep a clean sheet.”

Ancelotti did get some good news on the injury front as centre back and Colombian international Yerry Mina is expected to return after missing the previous two matches with a muscle injury. Midfielder Fabian Delph and winger Theo Walcott, though, remain sidelined, while the Toffees are waiting on veteran left back Leighton Baines to see if he will accept the club’s one-year offer.

Baines has appeared in 346 matches in the Premier League era, trailing only Tim Howard (354) and Leon Osman (352).

“He has extended his deal until the end of this season and I hope he will sign a new contract,” Ancelotti told Everton’s official website. “For the young players who play for Everton [he is very important]. We have a lot of respect for him as a player, as a professional and as a man.”

Kelechi Iheanacho scored four minutes into second-half stoppage time to lift Leicester to a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture after Vardy had canceled out Richarlison’s first-half marker on 68 minutes. The Foxes No. 9 has been a nuisance to Everton with six goals in their last seven league meetings.

Leicester, who also dumped Everton out of the Carabao Cup on penalties in the quarterfinals, last did the double over the Toffees in their title-winning 2015-16 run.