By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter; @aryhorblueblood)
King Power Stadium/September 9, 2017
The first international break of the 2017/2018 season has come and gone and now we’re back to league action with our trip to the King Power Stadium to face the Craig Shakespeare-tutored Leicester City. Leicester City is one of twelve teams to submit six points to Chelsea on the way to the title last season but doesn’t mean that this is going to be a walk over for Antonio Conte and his team. Leicester has won just one of their three matches this season, beating Chris Haughton’s Brighton and losing to Arsenal and Manchester United.
This fixture is one of the few that isn’t a guaranteed fixture in the Premier League because of Leicester City shuttling between the Premier League, Championship and League One. Chelsea didn’t lose any of the first five fixtures against Leicester City in the Premier League era (W4 D1). As a matter of fact, Leicester City has only won four of our 22 matches since the first fixture of this encounter took place at Stamford Bridge in October of 1994 (D5 L13). It gets worse for the home team though, of the 11 matches to have taken place at their home turf Leicester City has only managed three wins (D2 L6). This surely is a fixture that Chelsea fans can look forward to with some optimism, Chelsea have only failed to find the Leicester City net two times: once at Stamford Bridge and once at the King Power Stadium but what those two matches had in common is the fact that we lost them both so I hope and pray our attackers bring back their scoring boots from international duties into this match with Morata, Willian and Hazard finding the net for their respective countries during the international break. On paper, this looks like a very winnable fixture for Chelsea but then again this is the Premier League where history and form takes a back seat and only the team that shows up on the day carries the day.
Antonio Conte will have the full complement of his squad to choose from for the first time with Eden Hazard now match fit having played and scored for Belgium during the international break amassing a total of 97 minutes. Only Gary Cahill will be ineligible for selection as he serves the last of his 3-match suspension making him available for our blockbuster fixture against the Gunners next weekend. Leicester City is one of the teams to feel the full wrath of the 3-4-3 formation last season losing both games against us conceding 6 goals in the process and scoring none so I don’t see us lining up differently at the King Power Stadium. All of our internationals performed admirably save for those that didn’t taste action but that sure brings the issue of fatigue and jetlag from all the traveling into the equation. On the basis of that, I think it’ll be a surprise, for me personally, if Willian begins the game at the weekend having traveled the farthest of anybody in the squad and playing all but the few minutes of their win against Ecuador and lasting the duration of the draw against Columbia. Only Kante got invited by his country of our central midfielders leaving the trio of Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko and new arrival Danny Drinkwater fresh and ready but N’Golo Kante is not a name that should go missing in our team sheet whether or not he has played 5 hours of football for his country on the eve of our match because of what he brings to the team, so I expect him to start against his former employers with Conte deciding about who to partner him in central midfield. Even though the international break was a form of pleasure trip for Michy Batshuayi as he wasn’t called off the bench in both their matches I expect Alvaro Morata to continue to lead the line because he seem to be getting into his groove with five goals and three assists from five matches for club and country this season. Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger should continue their partnership in central defense with Alonso and Moses/Zappacosta filling the wingback positions and two of Hazard, Pedro, Willian, Moses and Musonda taking up the slot behind Morata.
Last Five Matches: WWLDL
Injuries: Gary Cahill (Suspended)-Out
Craig Shakespeare has freshened up the squad he inherited from his predecessor Claudio Ranieri with the arrivals of Vincent Iborra, Harry Maguire, Kelechi Iheanacho, George Thomas and reserve goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. Despite the big money signings of Iheanacho and Islam Slimani, Shakespeare has started the pair of Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki in attack and that’s sure to continue on Saturday. He has Matt James alongside Wilfred Ndidi in central midfield since the first game of the season when Danny Drinkwater partnered the Nigerian, with Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez occupying the wings in Craig Shakespeare’s favoured 4-4-2 formation. Harry Maguire has been chosen to partner captain Wes Morgan in all Leicester City’s three Premier League matches so far with Danny Simpson and Ben Chilwell playing either side of the pair. One thing that’s been consistent with Leicester City’s matches so far is the fact that they are happy to let their opponents have the ball, even against Brighton Albion when they recorded a possession of 45% but they still managed to score two unreplied goals. Against United and Arsenal they had possession stats of 31% but they still managed to create loads of chances due to their ability to break at speed and their ability from set pieces.
Last 5 matches: LWWLW
Injuries: Vincent Iborra (Hamstring) –Doubt
Victor Moses vs. Marc Albrighton
Marc Albrighton is one unlucky chap for him not to have received a call up from any English manager in recent times because he’s one consistent performer and is key to how Leicester plays on the counter attack. Moses will have to pay very close attention to him throughout the match because he’s got a wicked cross in him.
N’Golo Kante vs. Wilfred Ndidi
Kante will be in familiar territory but against an unfamiliar foe in the lanky Nigerian. Ndidi is as combative a midfielder as you’re going to get and so Kante will know he’s got a battle on his hands but I’m sure he’s not in the least fazed by it.
Marcos Alonso vs. Riyad Mahrez
Riyad Mahrez is going to be a hard nut for the Spaniard to crack but he should do okay and help will be readily available in the shape of Antonio Rudiger if he needs it because Mahrez can be a handful on his day and he’s very pivotal to the counter attacking style of Leicester City. He can be just as dangerous on set pieces too so Alonso will do well not to foul him in dangerous areas.
This certainly is a winnable match for us but the Leicester City players will make themselves as hard to be they can be. I’m sure Antonio will have been drilling it into his squad not to leave themselves too open to the counter attack of the City players and to be on the alert during set plays because the home team is quite dangerous from set pieces but they are vulnerable to them as well. Hopefully by the time I come your way again next week we would have celebrated a third win of four ahead of the visit of Arsenal but until then, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: IB Times India
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