In terms of results compared to last season, Tottenham Hotspur started their Champions League campaign better by getting a draw at Olympiacos. But how they got there is a source of consternation for Mauricio Pochettino ahead of Saturday’s challenge from a spiky Leicester City side looking to bounce back from their first league loss.
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The 2019 Champions League runners-up frittered away a two-goal lead in Athens on Wednesday night in settling for a 2-2 draw. Pochettino was incensed about the first goal, with came about shortly before halftime that gave a lifeline to the Greek squad they took full advantage of early in the second when Mathieu Valbuena goaded Jan Vertonghen into a penalty.
Valbuena then beat compatriot Hugo Lloris from the spot as Olympiacos claimed a share of the points and left Pochettino flustered over Spurs (2-2-1) blowing a two-goal lead for the second time in less than three weeks.
“We scored two goals, but if you analyse the performance it wasn’t great,” Pochettino bristled to The Times. “We didn’t translate that aggression and that is my biggest disappointment.
“When we don’t show that intensity that the competition demands, we struggle, because we are not talking about quality: we are talking about being focused, aggressive, anticipating the action. You need to match the opponent in aggression, in motivation. That is the first demand . . . It’s the responsibility of everyone.”
Harry Kane also had a penalty, making him the third-fastest player in Champions League history to 15 goals – doing so in just 20 matches – while Lucas Moura provided a classy finish from an incisive pass from Ben Davies.
It was the first time Pochettino had started arguably his four best attacking players together – Kane, Moura, Dele Alli, and Christian Eriksen – but there was little in the way of cohesion among them, especially in comparison to the Lilywhites’ 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace in their last league match.
Leicester City (2-2-1) are part of a six-team logjam on eight points occupying the third through eighth spots on the table but licking their wounds following a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Manchester United in the first match between the sides since centre back Harry Maguire made his record £80 million move from the Midlands.
An early foul by Maguire’s replacement – Caglar Soyuncu – on Marcus Rashford led to the striker and England international converting from the spot eight minutes in. The Foxes had their moments throughout in search of an equaliser, but Maguire marshaled a back line that refused to yield and got timely saves from United keeper David De Gea.
“We want to bounce back,” right back Ricardo Pereira told LCFC.com. “After a defeat, it’s important to start playing again. We want to correct the loss we had and playing at home against a big club, a strong team, I think it’s a big challenge for us. We want to get back to victory.
“We know when we lose we’re not the worst team, and when we win, we’re not the best. It’s important to believe in our qualities and know our value and to bounce back to show what happened last week won’t happen again.”
Leicester have taken four points from their two home contests but have not kept a clean sheet in their last four in league play after opening the term with a scoreless draw versus Wolves. The Foxes have claimed points in eight of nine matches (5-3-1) at King Power Stadium since Rodgers took over in March.
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, who has bagged 34 goals against Big Six sides with the club, will look to improve on his career five-goal haul versus Spurs. He has scored four of them the last three times he has played the Lilywhites.
Despite Vardy’s proficiency, Spurs did the double last term and were 2-0 winners in the Midlands as Heung-Min Son scored in first-half stoppage time and set up Alli’s goal just before the hour.
Odds and Ends from Ladbrokes
To Win: Leicester City 7/4; Draw 12/5; Tottenham Hotspur 29/20
Both Teams to Score: Yes 6/10; No 6/5
Over/Under 2.5 Goals: Over 3/4; Under 19/20
First Goal Scorer Leicester City: Vardy 7/2; Iheanacho 6/1; Perez, Maddison 8/1; Barnes 9/1
First Goal Scorer Tottenham Hotspur: Kane 10/3; Son, Moura 6/1; Lamela 17/2; Alli 10/1
Anytime Goal Scorer Leicester City: Vardy 6/4; Iheanacho 12/5; Perez, Maddison 16/5; Barnes, Tielemans, Gray 7/2
Anytime Goal Scorer Tottenham Hotspur: Kane 13/10; Son, Moura 12/5; Lamela 10/3; Alli, Eriksen 4/1
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Leicester City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1.
PREDICTED HALFTIME SCORE: Leicester City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 0.
PREDICTED FIRST GOAL-SCORER: James Maddison
OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 6 PREVIEWS
Southampton (2-1-2) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-2)
Everton (2-1-2) vs. Sheffield United (1-2-2)
Crystal Palace (2-1-2) vs. Wolverhampton (0-3-2)
Chelsea (2-2-1) vs. Liverpool (5-0-0)
(Jamie Vardy photo courtesy Leicester City official Twitter account)