Comment and Analysis @nicholaspwright
Ricardo Pereira: Leicester full-back is one of Premier League's finest
Watch Leicester vs Manchester City live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm
Last Updated: 20/03/20 12:28pm
Kevin De Bruyne occupies top spot in the Sky Sports Power Rankings this season. No surprise there. He is joined in the top five by three Liverpool players. No surprise there either. But sitting between Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane at number four, there is a name you might not expect.
Ricardo Pereira does not attract even a fraction as many plaudits as De Bruyne, Van Dijk or Mane. Even at Leicester there is a long line of team-mates who tend to occupy the spotlight ahead of him. But the statistics do not lie. Pereira has been one of the Premier League's top performers this season and it was the same story last year.
On Saturday, live on Sky Sports, he will face a club which has spent £200m on full-backs in the last three seasons. And yet as Pereira bombs up and down Leicester's right flank, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola could be forgiven for watching on enviously. After all, he already knows what Pereira can do. It was the 26-year-old's stunning strike that settled last season's meeting between the two sides at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester paid £22m to sign Pereira from Porto two summers ago and he has played more minutes for the Foxes than any other outfield player since. He was a key figure for Claude Puel, who knew him from former club Nice, and he is just as important to Brendan Rodgers. "He has been outstanding for me since I came in," said the Leicester boss in December.
Pereira is a formidable attacking weapon, even by the standards of the very best modern full-backs. His marauding runs are a feature of Leicester's approach and you do not have to look back as far as last season's meeting with Manchester City for an example of just how dangerous he can be.
Only a few weeks ago, when West Ham visited the King Power Stadium, David Moyes essentially deployed two left-backs in an attempt to contain him, with Arthur Masuaku playing ahead of Aaron Cresswell. But Pereira was irrepressible. By half-time, he had set up one goal and scored another.
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The goal was his fifth since his arrival in the Premier League at the start of last season and there have been eight assists too. The only defenders to have had a direct hand in more goals in the same time-frame are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. That pair are surely nailed on for the PFA Team of the Year, but Pereira would be a worthy inclusion too.
He is a nightmare for opposition defenders not just because of his incisiveness in the final third, but because of his speed and skill. Over the last two seasons, he is the only Premier League defender to have reached three figures for successful dribbles, while only Robertson and Wolves' Matt Doherty have had more touches inside the opposition box.
That adventurousness can occasionally leave gaps further back, but what makes Pereira so good is that he is an all-rounder. Leicester boast one of the best defensive records in the Premier League this season - only Liverpool have kept more clean sheets - and it has a lot to do with him.
The defensive side of his game has improved considerably since his arrival at Leicester. Puel said the Portugal international found it difficult to win his battles at the start of last season, but he soon toughened up and the statistics now show that he has won more duels than any other Premier League defender since joining Leicester.
Pereira is still at his best when flying forwards, but he approaches his defensive duties with the same determination with which attacks.
As well as ranking top for successful duels, he has made more tackles than any of his contemporaries since the start of last season. Only two defenders - Manchester United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Southampton centre-half Jan Bednarek - have made more interceptions.
That kind of front-foot defending makes Pereira an ideal fit for the high-intensity pressing game Rodgers has put in place at the King Power Stadium. In fact, among Leicester players this season, only James Maddison has won possession more times in the final third. Instead of sitting back and waiting for his opposition, Pereira defends from the front, disrupting passing moves and forcing turnovers high up the pitch.
Pereira's qualities are clear to everybody at Leicester. He won their player of the season award last year and must be in contention for this season's prize too. But there is still a sense that he does not receive the wider recognition his talents deserve. Type his name into a search engine and little comes up. At 26, he has only won seven caps for his country.
On Saturday against Manchester City, though, he will have another chance to show why he belongs at the very highest level - and why any one of the Premier League's big six would be happy to have him in their team. It is a good thing Leicester are on course for Champions League qualification this season. Because that is exactly where Ricardo Pereira belongs.
Watch Leicester vs Manchester City live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm