More than anything else, Leicester City simply needed a bit of a gift from the scheduling gods — to play any side other than Manchester City or Liverpool, their last two opponents — to get back to winning ways after three straight games without a victory.
Brendan Rodgers took a calculated, if not forced, risk by making nine changes to the team that was thrashed by the runaway Reds less than 48 hours prior, and it paid off in a big way: a 2-1 victory away to West Ham United on Saturday.
@StringerSport: was 9 changes high risk?
BR jokes: "I trust the players more than you trust me! I know the players well and how coordinated we are. I needed to ensure we had the energy and attitude. A lot of those who have played the last two, I didn’t think could give us that."
— BBC Leicester Sport (@BBCRLSport) December 28, 2019
After the game, Demarai Gray, one of the nine players to come into the team and the one who scored the game-winning goal after having a penalty kick saved 45 minutes prior, was delighted for himself and the other members of the “fresh team” who took their chance and made the most of it — quotes from the BBC:
“We were in control for a lot of it. We let them back in it with the goal at the end of the first half but overall we controlled the game. We put out a fresh team, but it paid off.
“I was fine taking the penalty, I’m not really nervous in that situation. Those things happen, but it was important to react properly and I did and I got the goal and I was happy. It always means a lot to score and most importantly we got the three points at the end.
“Anytime you come in if you’re not playing so much you have to try and stamp your mark and get yourself in the team. We knew it was a quick turnaround and we knew we’d need a fresh XI, but it just shows the quality and depth we’ve got in the team.”
“We haven’t spoke about the title race or the top four. We just take each game as it comes and try and get three points and see where we are at the end of the season.”
Thanks to Man City’s loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday, Leicester are guaranteed to enter 2020 as the second-place side in the Premier League. They lead the two-time defending champions, who play on Sunday, by four points, though they also trail Liverpool, who also play on Sunday and have an extra game in hand, by 10 points.