Why Leicester could be derailed by Manchester United's league leading defence

 
Joe Hall
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Southampton v Leicester City - Premier League
Record breaker? Vardy is just one goal away from setting a new Premier League record (Source: Getty)

It appears impossible to speak about Leicester this season without resorting to gushing praise for their gatecrashing of the Premier League elite.

Arsene Wenger says "you cannot rule them out [of the title race]" while Jurgen Klopp marvelled: "It seems Leicester can do everything. They fly through the league at this moment and it is deserved. It's a brilliant job what they do."

Led by Jamie Vardy, who is now just a goal away from setting a new record for goals scored in consecutive matches, Leicester have swooned the Premier League with a swashbuckling style that has netted more goals than anyone else.

In contrast, United can't seem to stop inciting scorn from pundits and ex-players alike, unimpressed by their lack of attacking verve.

Yet despite the narratives surrounding the two teams, there is reason to believe Leicester could finally become unstuck in today's top of the table clash.

Claudio Ranieri's side have undoubtedly deserved the accolades lavished their way, yet they have been given a leg up the table by a favourable fixture list which has pitted them against the worst defences in the league.

Read more: Leicester's flimsy defence could cost them against United

All of Leicester's wins to date have come against sides who concede more shots per 90 minutes than the league average.

Whenever the Foxes have faced a team with a more resolute defence, they've failed to secure a win - their only loss this season to date coming at home to Arsenal in a seven goal thriller.

And for all their faults going forward, United have one of the strongest defences in the league by any metric you wish to measure it by.

No team has conceded fewer goals (9.1) than the back four marshalled by the impressive Chris Smalling and bolstered by David De Gea, while only Manchester City average fewer shots conceded per game than United's 9.1.

While Vardy tops the scoring charts, Smalling and De Gea are among the league's very best at the other end of the field.

When teams have eventually breached the red wall, De Gea has been on hand to save 79.5 per cent of all shots on target against United - only Stoke's Jack Butland has a higher save rating.

Following United, Leicester play Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City before the end of the year. Not only do they all concede fewer shots than average, they boast better attacks than any of the teams Leicester have yet beaten and will test the Foxes further.

Although Leicester are average in terms of shots conceded per game, when they do concede chances they often tend to be good ones; 12 per cent of the shots against them have come from inside the six yard box - a higher percentage than any other Premier League club.

Their forthcoming opponents include Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Romelu Lukaku and Philippe Coutinho - players likely to make such opportunities count.

Leicester have been mightily impressive so far this season, but starting this evening Ranieri's side will need to crank it up a gear if they want to remain in title race discussions by the start of 2016.

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