LONDON (Reuters) - The Premier League’s leading goalscorers will be on show at when surprise leaders Leicester City bid to move further ahead at the top with victory against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The match will pitch England’s Jamie Vardy, with a league-leading 15 goals this season for Leicester, against Everton’s Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku (12), with Vardy’s attacking partner, Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez (11), in a supporting role.
All three players are on the “wanted” lists of some of the league’s biggest clubs, with goal-shy Manchester United already heavily linked with former Chelsea striker Lukaku.
His exit from Stamford Bridge in 2014 must be viewed with increasing frustration by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho as his lacklustre champions spiral into crisis.
In contrast, Claudio Ranieri, Mourinho’s predecessor as Chelsea boss in his first spell, has declared his dynamic duo to be “priceless” ahead of the January transfer window.
Fresh from beating visitors Chelsea 2-1 on Monday, Leicester can extend their two-point lead at the top because nearest rivals Arsenal do not host third-placed Manchester City in the schedule’s outstanding fixture until Monday.
In-form Arsenal will be determined to beat Manuel Pellegrini’s inconsistent City to endorse their championship credentials and widen the gap to their nearest challengers.
City have not won away in four league games since a 1-0 triumph at Crystal Palace in September and, if captain Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero remain absent, their chances of ending that run -- and boosting their title hopes -- may be dented.
Ranieri’s effervescent Leicester team can create a five-point cushion by claiming an eighth success in 10 league games since their 5-2 home defeat by Arsenal in September.
Victory at 10th-placed Everton, unbeaten in six, would also enhance the status of league top scorers Leicester -- who have 34 goals in 16 league games -- as genuine title contenders.
While the strike trio strut their stuff at Goodison, crisis-racked champions Chelsea, in 16th place, host Sunderland, 19th, in what could be viewed as an unexpected relegation scrap at Stamford Bridge.
Given that Sunderland won this fixture in 2010 and 2014 -- and the dismal form of the hosts -- Chelsea cannot rely on a straightforward afternoon.
Indeed, Sunderland have lost only once to Chelsea in their last four meetings in all competitions.
A 10th defeat in 17 league games could see Chelsea, already enduring their worst start to a Premier League season, fall into the bottom three, heaping more pressure on the beleaguered Mourinho.
His friend, Manchester United’s Louis Van Gaal, who is also under fire, could ease the pressure on his own head with a home win over struggling Norwich City.
Eliminated from the Champions League and beaten last Saturday at promoted Bournemouth, goal-shy United are fourth but could draw level on 32 points with Manchester City, at least until their local rivals play on Monday.
Reporting by Tim Collings, Editing by Neville Dalton