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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Leicester's luck set to run out against free-scoring Everton

Defensive crisis to force Toffees further on to the front foot

Everton's Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring against Leicester City
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Premier League
Sky Sports 1, 4pm Sunday 

It's easy to get carried away by Craig Shakespeare's breakthrough into management, with Leicester's popular former assistant creating another unlikely piece of history at the King Power Stadium.

Shakespeare stepped out of the shadows in style upon his promotion, halting a run of five successive league defeats and replacing it with a six-match winning sequence.

In doing so, Shakespeare became only the third manager to win his first five Premier League matches - only Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti can better his start - and for good measure he chucked in a stunning come-from-behind Champions League victory over Seville.

But what appears a by-the-numbers fairytale story may in fact be a little more complex, and not only due to the uncomfortable departure of title-winning Claudio Ranieri. Indeed look at Leicester's form from another angle and it really hasn't changed all that much.

True, the Foxes are playing with more confidence and cohesion under Shakespeare. The game plan is simpler, the movement faster, the finishing clinical.

But at least part of their improvement must be put down to a quirk of the fixture list as Shakespeare's first six matches took in five home games and three of their visitors are among the worst-performing away teams in the division - Sunderland, Hull and Stoke.

It wasn't home form that was the problem before Ranieri departed, with the Foxes losing just four of 17 King Power outings under the Italian but winning just two of 20 on the road.

Even the two impressive scalps claimed by Shakespeare come with caveats attached as Liverpool have beaten only Plymouth in their last seven away games while Seville are trapped in a season-scuppering six-match winless run.

And during Shakespeare's sole away victory in that run, his goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had to pull off a pair of wonder saves to get over the line against a West Ham side who have lost their last five matches.

Lady Luck doesn't seem ready to abandon Shakespeare any time soon as she now accompanies him to an Everton side suddenly struck down with a defensive crisis.

Injuries to Ramiro Funes Mori and Seamus Coleman had already seriously undermined the Toffees's backline, so the suspension picked up by Ashley Williams has left it looking threadbare. 

Out-of-favour veteran Phil Jagielka had already been recalled and he is likely to be flanked by youngsters Mason Holgate and Matthew Pennington, the latter of whom struggled against Liverpool last weekend in his first start of the season.

That may be good news for neutral viewers as it could force Everton manager Ronald Koeman to be even more attack-minded with a team who could hardly have been accused of being shrinking violets in recent outings.

The Toffees have blasted their way to victory in each of their last six Goodison Park run-outs, smashing Manchester City 4-0 and planting six past Bournemouth to average 3.67 goals per home game in 2017. 

Recommended bet
Everton to win and over 2.5 goals
2pts 33-20 Coral

Dan Sait is the Football Editor of the Racing & Football Outlook - out every Tuesday

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Ronald Koeman may have to be even more attack-minded with a team that have hardly been shrinking violets in recent outings
E.W. Terms
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