By, Ugo Nwogwugwu
Saturday 13th January, Stamford Bridge – After their exertions against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup midweek, Chelsea made a quick return to Premier League football. Their opponents this weekend: eighth-placed Leicester City FC.
Leicester were in relatively decent form; they’d won four and drawn one of their eight league games since the start of December. Their pace and counterattacking style tended to work well against teams at the top end of the league table: the one draw in that run of results was a 2 – 2 vs Manchester United. They also drew 1 – 1 with Manchester City in the league cup, before getting knocked out on penalties.
Chelsea were five places and sixteen points ahead of their visitors overall, but they weren’t that much better in terms of recent form. The London club had five wins and two draws since December; they were only four points ahead of Leicester City in that period of time.
Leicester captain Wes Morgan and full back Danny Simpson were unavailable for selection through injury, but Claude Puel had a major boost – their top scorer Jamie Vardy was back in the starting line-up for this game.
Ross Barkley was not yet match-fit for Chelsea, but Antonio Conte didn’t have any other injury concerns at the start of this fixture.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Courtois 7, Moses 6.5, Azpilicueta 7, Cahill 6 (Christensen 7.5), Rudiger 7, Alonso 6, Kante 7, Bakayoko 5.5, Fabregas 6 (Willian 6), Hazard 6.5 (Pedro 4.5), Morata 6
Subs Caballero, Luiz, Christensen, Zappacosta, Willian, Pedro, Batshuayi
Schmeichel 7, Chilwell 6, Maguire 7, Dragovic 7, Amartey 6.5, Ndidi 7, Albrighton 6, James 7 (Iborra NR), Mahrez 7.5, Okazaki 7 (Fuchs 5.5), Vardy 6.5 (Gray 5)
Subs Hamer, Benalouane, Iborra, Gray, Fuchs, Iheanacho, Slimani
Low On Fuel
Leicester had a seven-day break after their last game against Fleetwood Town in the FA Cup. They also rested a number of players in that fixture – some of today’s starters hadn’t played a match since New Year’s Day.
By comparison, Chelsea played Arsenal just three days before the game against Leicester City. They were starting almost exactly the same eleven from midweek, and it showed. The Leicester players showed far more energy than their hosts and completely dominated the first half.
Ben Chilwell took control of a long ball down the left wing and got past Victor Moses and Gary Cahill, into the penalty area. He cut a cross back into the six-yard box, but Shinji Okazaki couldn’t make the right contact, his finish went high and wide.
Matty James exchanged passes with Wilfred Ndidi in midfield, then broke through Chelsea’s defensive midfield players like they weren’t there. He put a through pass into the box for Jamie Vardy, who struck a shot across goal but Thibaut Courtois made a quick save low and to his right to keep it out.
Riyad Mahrez swung in a corner that made it all the way to Ndidi, lurking just outside the six yard box. Ndidi’s header was on target but Courtois parried it out. Aleksandar Dragovic tried to fire in the rebound, but Antonio Rudiger was on hand to block this shot as well.
Gary Cahill had to come off about half an hour into the game for what looked like a hamstring injury, and Andreas Christensen came off the bench to replace him.
Leicester broke again down the left wing, and Vardy tried a long cross into the box but there was no one on the end of it. Mahrez took possession on the right wing, dribbled past Rudiger in the box and fired the ball across goal, but again there was no one in position for an easy finish.
Chelsea didn’t really trouble Kasper Schmeichel until five minutes before halftime. Eden Hazard drove into the final third then passed out right for Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas looked like he might pass to his right again for Moses, but then he cut back in and took a rising shot at goal, but Schmeichel put it out for a corner.
Changing The Game
The half time team talk didn’t make much difference – Leicester were still in control early in the second half. If anything they looked more certain of scoring the opening goal, until about an hour in, when Conte used his remaining substitutions to bring in Willian and Pedro for Fabregas and Hazard respectively.
The subs helped up the pace of Chelsea’s game, made them more able to cope with Leicester’s aggressive style. They also led to the red card that turned the game in their favour, but even with the extra player, Chelsea weren’t able to take full advantage and win the game.
Riyad Mahrez dribbled in from the right wing to just outside the D, then whipped a shot in, but it deflected off Christensen. The deflection wrong-footed Courtois and the ball looked like it might go in the net, but at the end it bounced just wide of the post.
Ben Chilwell collected two quick bookings and got sent off midway through the second half. The first yellow card was for a late tackle on Willian, and the second was for a slightly dangerous lunge on Victor Moses just a few minutes later.
Moses put a cross into the box but Harry Maguire deflected it out to Bakayoko, who took a shot from distance but he couldn’t keep it down, it went over the bar.
In the final minute of injury time, Moses passed the ball from the right wing to Willian in a central area. Willian dribbled forward but got tripped up by Iborra right on the edge of the box. Marcos Alonso curled a free kick in low and to the right, but Schmeichel saved again.
Another Draw (But These Things Happen)
Another goalless draw for Chelsea, and a well-deserved point for Leicester City. Some of the Chelsea players looked pretty gassed out there, but it’s not going to get any easier; they probably have the busiest fixture list of any team in the premier league.
Chelsea finished the day on 47 points, level with Manchester United in second, but just three points ahead of Liverpool and Tottenham in fourth and fifth respectively. And both United and Liverpool had played one game less. Next up for Chelsea, an FA cup replay against Norwich City in five days’ time.
Final Score Chelsea 0 – 0 Leicester City
Thumbnail image courtesy of: 90min
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