Leicester City-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
Both Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City are looking for some clarity amidst a busy stretch of fixtures as the top-four sides and title hopefuls meet at White Hart Lane for the second time in four days Wednesday.
The luck of the draw pitted the Spurs and Foxes against each other in the third round of the FA Cup, and even with a slew of lineup changes to both sides to stay fresh for this match, it delivered plenty of lively football and drama.
The end result: a 2-2 draw that forced a replay set for Jan. 19 at King Power Stadium, with Spurs netting the equaliser on Harry Kane's penalty in the 89th minute after a handball was called on Nathan Dyer. Christian Eriksen staked Tottenham to an early lead, only to see Leicester respond with goals from Marcin Wasilewski and Shinji Okazaki on either side of halftime.
Both managers had reasons to fret and exalt with the extra match added to their schedules perhaps an unwanted monkey wrench to their plans for chasing their first Premier League title. But both were more than willing to see the glass half full as they seek a crucial three points in this league encounter.
"They worked so well - very, very hard," manager Claudio Ranieri told Leicester City's official website after being able to rest his dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, among others. "I had eight new players on the pitch and I watched a good team - that's what I want.
"I think we made a very good performance and maybe we deserved to win because to concede two minutes from the end is very unlucky."
Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino was effusive in praise of his team as well, noting, "It's important to recognise that this team never gives up, we always fight and we try to go forward believing we can score. I'm happy we did that.
"We have a lot of games ahead, but I think we're in a good position to attack all the competitions. We have a strong squad and we have to believe and keep working hard."
Tottenham (9-9-2) are unbeaten in their last five - winning three - and are in fourth, six points back of Arsenal. Kane's team-leading 14th goal in all competitions this season was also his 50th with Spurs, and he's found the back of the net six times in six lifetime matches versus the Foxes.
"To reach 50 goals is a very proud moment for me and I look forward to the next 50, starting on Wednesday!" Kane tweeted.
While Leicester (11-7-2) are now winless in their last four overall, there was a sense of relief in their scoreless drought ending at 310 minutes with Wasilewski's first-half header off a corner kick from Demarai Gray, who made his Foxes debut after being signed from Birmingham City.
It was a return to normal of sorts for the Foxes, who have scored at least two goals in 10 of their 13 road matches in all competitions and enter this contest trailing front-running Arsenal by two points.
Okazaki's individual effort that led to his goal may be enough for Ranieri to re-insert him into the starting lineup to partner with Vardy considering Leonardo Ulloa played the full 90 minutes Sunday.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in August. Teenager Dele Alli scored his first Premier League goal in the 81st minute for Spurs, but Mahrez leveled the match in the next minute to give Leicester a share of the points.
Tottenham are unbeaten in their last five league matches (3-2-0) versus Leicester, whose last win over Spurs came in last year's FA Cup. It's the first time two Premier League teams are facing each other three times in a nine-day span since Arsenal and Liverpool played a league match around their two-legged 2008 Champions League quarterfinal tie.