Leicester City head into the final game of the Premier League season needing three points against Manchester United to secure Champions League football.
The Foxes have been subpar since Project Restart came into action, winning only two of their eight league games.
This, combined with the flying form of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, means that what seemed like a guaranteed top-four finish a few months ago is now extremely uncertain.
Injuries to key men and a lack of squad depth have dampened the spirits at the King Power Stadium, but their hopes and dreams are still in their own hands.
However, even if Brendan Rodgers‘ outfit misses out on Champions League qualification, this year will still be remembered as one of the finest in the club’s history.
There are many people to thank for their historic campaign, starting with the manager.
Kasper Schmeichel has been great behind the even better back four of Ricardo Pereira, Caglar Soyuncu, Jonny Evans and Ben Chilwell.
Jamie Vardy is currently leading the Golden Boot race, with his 23 goals two clear of his closest competitor.
But there are three men who perhaps do not get the credit they deserve.
Each player has been outstanding in their own right this season, and Brendan Rodgers deserves credit for fitting them into the correct system.
The balance that each man brings is essential to success.
The 4-3-3 formation is one used by many of the world’s top clubs. It is a system that allows for attacking freedom and defensive stability.
With Leicester’s trio and the individual qualities that each man brings, they have the perfect midfield dynamic.
What’s even more exciting is the fact that they have almost mastered their roles at such young ages.
Here, we profile and explain the roles of each player.
The Destroyer – Wilfred Ndidi
The term “world-class” is one that is often thrown around in modern-day football.
In reality, a “world-class player” must perform at a truly elite level for at least two seasons.
They also must be in the top ten players in the world in their position, maybe even top five.
Based on these criteria, Wilfred Ndidi may well be a world-class defensive midfielder.
He is an out-and-out number 6, playing between and just behind the two number 8’s.
Think Sergio Busquets, Casemiro, Fernandino and Fabinho.
The ex-Genk man is arguably the Foxes’ most important player.
They have won 55% of their league games with him in the team this season. But when he missed six games through injury in January/February, Leicester only won once.
His main role is to win the ball back and give it to his colleagues. He does this about as good as anyone on the planet.
He makes four tackles a game, which is the third most in Europe’s top five leagues. The two players ahead of him are his teammate Pereira and Rennes’ teenage sensation Eduardo Camavinga.
Ndidi also makes 2.5 interceptions per game, which is the sixth most in Europe.
In essence, the Nigerian is a ball-winning machine.
Leicester recruited Ndidi to fill the figuratively massive boots of Ngolo Kante. He has passed the test with flying colours.
Kante had Danny Drinkwater holding the centre so that he could go and win the ball anywhere on the pitch. Ndidi is not afforded this luxury and this fact makes him even more impressive.
If he misses a tackle, the back four is immediately under immense pressure. Fortunately, he rarely does.
Ndidi is very solid, if perhaps unspectacular, with the ball at his feet, boasting a passing success rate of 85.2%.
He does get caught with the ball at his feet at times and has given away a few penalties this season. But these issues will be ironed out as he gains more experience.
As central defensive-midfielders go, at least from a ball-winning aspect, they do not come much better than Wilfred Ndidi in world football.
The Maestro – Youri Tielemans
There is a reason that Leicester were so desperate to make Youri Tielemans’ loan move from Monaco permanent last summer.
He is the tempo-setter in this team.
The Belgian has been tipped for superstardom ever since he was a kid at Anderlecht.
While he hasn’t reached a world-class level just yet, he may well do so in the coming years.
He doesn’t rack up the defensive numbers of Ndidi or the creative numbers of Maddison but he is just as important as either of them.
If Ndidi is the man who wins the ball, Tielemans is the one who uses it.
In terms of playing style, think Xavi.
Tielemans takes the ball and moves it forward, but can play a spectacular pass if it is on. He has the brain and the vision to make the right decision more often than not.
The 28-cap international prefers to move the ball with a pass rather than run with it. He makes an average of 48.3 passes per game and only 0.8 dribbles.
His 1.9 tackles and interceptions per game is not fantastic, but it doesn’t have to be when Ndidi is beside him.
Tielemans is equally adept kicking with either foot. When he decides to use it, he is lethal from long-range.
Tielemans would probably be better suited to playing in a deeper midfield duo. This would allow him to receive the ball with the whole game in front of him.
Yet, the more he plays in a three, the better he will get there.
He has a football brain that many players ten years older than him could only dream of.
The ideal link-up man, without Youri Tielemans, the Leicester midfield simply doesn’t work.
The Dynamo – James Maddison
Throughout history, English midfielders have more often than not based their game on energy and athletic ability.
England are not known for producing silky, creative central midfielders, while the number 10 role is a relative newcomer to the British game.
Even the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, undoubtedly world-class going forward, were not the type to receive the ball in tight spaces, wriggle their way out and deliver a killer through ball.
However, recent times have seen quite a few of these almost Spanish-type players break through in the Premier League.
Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Phil Foden get a lot of credit, yet there is one silky English attacking midfielder ahead of them all.
That man is James Maddison.
While Grealish has played slightly better this season from a creative standpoint, he has played on the left-wing. This grants him more space and freedom, giving him more opportunity to create.
Meanwhile, James Maddison has been playing in a deeper, more central role.
He has more defensive duties than a regular number 10. However, he is allowed more attacking freedom than his two partners.
He cannot express himself as much as he would like. However, this is for the greater good, as Maddison has made the best of the situation.
While his assist numbers have dropped from seven last season to three this term, he has still had a fantastic campaign.
He has been one of the Premier League’s best creators for two seasons now. Last season’s numbers were even better than this year.
He hasn’t played since the 1st of July due to injury, and his teammates have missed him greatly.
His absence has seen Rodgers move to a three-at-the-back formation, meaning Leicester look nothing like themselves.
Despite the brilliant Harvey Barnes in the wing, Leicester rely on Maddison an awful lot for creativity.
The likes of Dennis Praet and Ayoze Perez have been unable to fill the void, but they will have to try again this weekend.
Maddison pairs his passing prowess with a good attitude, good positioning and good energy. This is a vital part of his make-up as a player.
The modern English midfielder – James Maddison to a T.