By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/January 13, 2017
Nobody could have possibly predicted a drab, uninteresting and boring draw between Chelsea and Arsenal after watching both teams play out a 2-2 draw just a week earlier in what’s surely a candidate for game of the season. Arsene Wenger seemed to be content with taking a draw back to the Emirates in a fortnight and Antonio Conte just seem edto follow the flow of the game hence the boring affair under the floodlights at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. As it has become a recurring theme since the start of December there’s very little recovery time between games and so we cannot dwell too much on the Arsenal draw too much as we prepare for the visit of Leicester City, who are resurgent since the appointment of Claude Puel. A win for the Blues on Saturday will move them, even if temporarily, into second place until Manchester United host Stoke City on Monday. With another midweek game on the horizon a fast start may be needed to afford our stars a little bit of recovery time before Norwich City comes to town.
Chelsea has faced The Foxes a combined 110 times in all competitions (W55 D30 L25) which translates to the fact that the Blues has won exactly half of the times when we’ve faced Leicester City in any competition. With Leicester City almost always shuttling between the Premier League and the other divisions we’ve met just 24 times in the Premier League the first of which came in October 1994 in a match won comfortably 4-0 by Chelsea – that match also witnessed Chelsea’s fastest ever Premier League goal scored by the diminutive John Spencer with just 19 seconds on the clock which for some weird, unknown reason wasn’t included in the Premier League’s fastest goals record. Since that first win, Chelsea has added a further 14 wins in the next 23 matches against The Foxes in the Premier League while losing just 4 with 5 more ending in draws. The Foxes certainly not be looking forward to this weekend’s match as they haven’t enjoyed their recent visits to Stamford Bridge with just 1 win in their last 10 visits (L7 D2) their only win coming in the year 2000 thanks to goals from Muzzy Izzet and Stan Collymore – that match was the second of two times when Chelsea has failed to find the net against The Foxes the first coming two season earlier in 1998 in another 2-0 loss this time on their own patch. Chelsea has won the last three encounters against Leicester City in the Premier League with an aggregate score of 8-1 – Leicester City’s only goal in that run coming from the penalty spot earlier this season. Chelsea has again lost just once in the last 10 meetings with Leicester City (W8 D1) scoring in every single one of those matches. The Foxes are on a dismal run of just one win in the last 10 in the Premier League against Chelsea (D1 L8). This surely looks like a winnable fixture if the efforts on the part of our players meet the expectations of the Chelsea fans with being on a run of three draws from our last three matches.
Antonio Conte will surely be hoping for more from his players and himself after what was ultimately an uninteresting draw against Arsenal on Wednesday night in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg. The Gunners defenders and goalkeeper had a field day passing the ball around in the first half with little or no pressure from the Chelsea attackers and midfielders and that must improve against The Foxes who likes to play it around at the back themselves before lumping it forward looking for the run in behind the defence from Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez. Victor Moses had an improved performance against Maitland-Niles on Wednesday night compared to his forgettable performance against the same opposition a week earlier and even came closest to scoring for us when his shot from inside the box was pushed against the foot of the post and out by David Ospina, but I think Davide Zappacosta burst of pace and direct style of play will be more suited to this game and I expect the Italian to return to the starting lineup on Saturday. Gary Cahill should also be returning to the starting eleven after being rested in midweek. With David Luiz now back fit and in contention it’s yet to be seen how Antonio Conte handles the situation between the Brazilian and our Danish Prince. It may be time for Conte to give Michy Batshuayi the chance I think he deserve because teams seem to be alive to the aerial threat of our Spanish striker more so I think the Spaniard is due for a rest to recuperate and get his mojo back, because we’re getting to the business end of the season when his goals and overall contributions will be crucial. Danny Drinkwater certainly did his chances of a continuous run in the side a lot of good with his performance on Wednesday night and I certainly won’t be surprised if he keeps his place in the team to face his former team. Willian didn’t have as much impact off the bench as he’s had this season but Saturday afternoon is another opportunity for the Brazilian to impress. Pedro will be hoping to get back into the team for the first time since against Norwich City depending on the style the coach chooses to play. With no other alternative at left wingback Marcos Alonso, who is playing more now as a second striker than wingback, will again get the nod and he seems to enjoy playing The Foxes with two goals in three matches against them. N’Golo Kante got his first goal against Leicester City earlier this season and he’ll be hoping for more when The Foxes visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Victor Moses, Fabregas, Drinkwater, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Batshuayi.
Last Five Matches: DDDWW
After a blistering start to life under Claude Puel when The Foxes lost just one of their first eight matches with the Frenchman in charge – losing to only Manchester City and beating Spurs along the way – things seemed to have slowed down a little with Leicester winning just one of their last seven (L3 D3) – that win coming in a 3-0 win last time out in the Premier League against Huddersfield Town. Claude Puel is still looking for his first win against Chelsea having lost both matches against the Blues with Southampton last season and the Frenchman likes to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 but in both matches against Chelsea last season he tried a back three and it’s yet to be seen whether he’ll try to match Chelsea’s formation again especially given how depleted his defence is with both Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson missing this weekend’s games with injury with Robert Huth no yet up to full match fitness having made his first appearance in a long while for the Leicester U-23s last weekend. One of Aleksandar Dragovic and Yohan Benaloane will likely join Harry Maguire in the heart of the Leicester City defence except if Puel decides to take a gamble with the veteran former Chelsea player Robert Huth. Daniel Amartey has deputized for Simpson before and is the go to guy for that position in Simpson’s absence with Christian Fuchs likely to return in the opposite flank but should the Austrian fail to shake up his recent injury Ben Chilwell will be on standby. Adrien Silva is still waiting for his first start for Leicester City after his move from Sporting Lisbon became official on New Year’s Day but this game might come too soon with him being listed as a doubt for this weekend’s match. Vicente Iborra is likely to return to partner Nigerian Wilfred Ndidi in central midfield with Matt James and Andy King other options for that central midfield slot. Jamie Vardy missed The Foxes’ last two matches against Huddersfield Town and Fleetwood Town with injury but should be fit enough to spearhead Leicester City’s attack at Stamford Bridge otherwise it’ll be one of Shinji Okazaki or Islam Slimani taking the reins. Forgotten Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho is another option for that striking position but it’s highly unlikely that Puel will turn to the Nigerian for such an important fixture. The trio of Riyad Mahrez, Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray will likely be chosen to play behind whoever is chosen to lead the line on Saturday.
Schmeichel; Amartey, Maguire, Dragovic, Fuchs; Ndidi, Iborra; Mahrez, Gray, Albrighton; Vardy.
Last 5 matches: DWLLD
Injuries: Wes Morgan (Hamstring) –Out; Danny Simpson (Hamstring) –Out; Jamie Vardy (Groin) –Doubt; Vicente Iborra (Hamstring) –Doubt; Robert Huth (Fitness) –Doubt; Christian Fuchs (Illness) –Doubt; Adrien Silva (Ankle) – Doubt.
Marcos Alonso vs. Riyad Mahrez
Hopefully Marcos Alonso’s lack of pace does not come into play against a pretty pacy and fast Mahrez. All of Leicester City’s good attacking goes through the Algerian and should Alonso be able to stop him from impacting the game then he would have done his beat in securing another three points for the defending champions.
Davide Zappacosta vs. Demarai Gray
Zappacosta’s burst of pace will surely come in handy against a very fast winger in Gray who’s having a season to be proud of for Leicester City but one of the English winger’s known weakness is his inability to track back and help his defence and if there’s one player to take advantage of such deficiency it’s surely Zappacosta..
Andreas Christensen vs. Jamie Vardy
Andreas Christensen will surely have his hands full with Jamie Vardy’s uncanny ability to run in behind the defence almost for the entirety of the match but if there’s anyone in our line-up of defenders to be able to stand toe-to-toe with Vardy Christensen will surely be it. This is another challenge for the young defender to surpass on his road to becoming a Chelsea legend one I hope he’ll pass with flying colours.
This is a match from which anything less than three points for Chelsea will be considered a poor result but it’s not going to be easy against a Leicester City team who themselves are on a dismal run of just one win in seven matches. A fast start maybe required to see off what’s surely going to be a physical Leicester City team but we should still have enough in the tank to get all three points on offer provided Antonio Conte freshen up the side where necessary. With yet another game coming up in midweek rotation will be the way for Conte and hopefully we’ll be going into our FA Cup replay against Norwich City on the back of a win against The Foxes. Ciao!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: We Ain’t Got No History
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