Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
King Power Stadium/March 18, 2018
That certainly wasn’t a 3-0 performance from the Blues at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night but that’s football. Sometimes you give everything and end up with nothing, like we did on Wednesday night, and at other times you give little and end up with everything. It all could have ended differently of course if the penalty decision had gone our way like it should because at 2-1 we certainly would’ve had a chance with the way we managed to pin Barcelona down in their own half but then again that’s football. Some decisions goes your way and others doesn’t. The Barcelona game is now in the past no matter how we feel about it hence our focus should be on the FA Cup match against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The FA Cup represent our remaining hope for a silverware this season and I expect the team to take it as such especially if the opposition is one that has nothing to lose and everything to gain like Leicester City.
Chelsea has faced The Foxes a combined 111 times in all competitions, prior to Sunday’s showdown, with this statistics (W55 D31 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 19seconds 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 will not relish this weekend fixture especially as it’s a cup match. In 12 previous cup matches against the Blues, the Foxes have only won once (L8 D3) and even on that occasion they still lost out to the Blues 4-3 on penalties after the both legs finished all square. Leicester City has won just one of their last 15 matches against Chelsea (L12 D2) with the Blues failing to score just once in that run and that came in the last encounter between the two clubs a 0-0 draw back in January. Claude Puel will be hoping to finally get a first win over the Blues on Sunday having lost two and drawn one of his three matches against Chelsea with both Southampton and Leicester City.
Antonio Conte would have taken a lot of positives from the defeat at Camp Nou on Wednesday with his Chelsea team outplaying Barcelona for large spells in that encounter and as he rightly stated afterwards the team didn’t deserve to lose by such score line on the back of one of our best performances of the season. With the FA Cup representing our only remaining hope for silverware this season however, Conte has said he and his team will fight for the trophy until the very end as well as continuing to fight to qualify for next season’s Champions’ League by finishing in the top four. Something that’s as important to Antonio Conte as much as the need to progress to the semi-final of the FA Cup is the need to freshen up the squad after the exertion in Spain in midweek especially with Tottenham Hotspurs next up for us in the Premier League hence the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Pedro, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Gary Cahill and Emerson Palmieri will be hoping to be involved. Willy Caballero has kept goal in every domestic cup match this season and should continue in that role especially since Thibaut Courtois didn’t cover himself in glory at the Camp Nou. Davide Zappacosta will likely follow his cameo at the Camp Nou with a starting role on Sunday to give Victor Moses time to be ready for the visit of Spurs to Stamford Bridge. It’s yet to be seen if Olivier Giroud continues as the focal point of the attack having landed awkwardly at the Camp Nou and being substituted or if Alvaro Morata gets another chance to impress but with this match likely to be physical my vote is on the Frenchman being a lot more physical than his Spanish colleague. With David Luiz still out Andreas Christensen will most likely continue at the heart of the back three because Gary Cahill will not be able to live with the pace of Jamie Vardy should Conte throw him in that position. I do think the captain will be back in the team however most likely in place of Antonio Rudiger. Emerson Palmieri impressed in the last round of the FA Cup and will surely be hoping to get involved again. Willian is surely in his best form for Chelsea since his move from Shaktar Donetsk and should continue in the front three alongside Giroud/Morata and Eden Hazard.
Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante, Drinkwater, Emerson; Hazard, Giroud, Willian.
Last Five Matches: LWLLW
Injuries: David Luiz (Knee) – Out; Ross Barkley (Hamstring) – Out.
Claude Puel and his team would have taken a lot of confidence from their last match against Chelsea in January a match they dominated for large spells and they would have surely felt unlucky to have left Stamford Bridge with just one point and I’m sure they will be giving this match a go especially with the Blues’ form not the best. Claude Puel has lined his Leicester City team up in a predominantly 4-2-3-1 formation and that’s likely to continue on Sunday. Harry Maguire and club captain Wes Morgan have formed a solid partnership in the heart of the Foxes’ defence and the duo will likely line up in that position on Sunday with both Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs flanking them. Ben Chilwell is another option at left back for Puel to consider if he so decides. Wilfred Ndidi was by far the best Leicester City on show at Stamford Bridge and the Nigerian has been a constant figure in Claude Puel’s reign as Leicester City boss and he’s surely going to be anchoring the Foxes’ midfield alongside one of Vincente Iborra, Adrien Silva and Matt James. The trio of Marc Albrighton, Demarai Gray and the reincorporated Riyad Mahrez will likely be supporting lone striker Jamie Vardy. Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho, who’s their leading scorer in the competition with three goals, are other options for the role behind Vardy in attack. Alexander Dragovic has enjoyed a run in the side in recent times alongside Maguire in central defence and he’ll be a different option Wes Morgan if he’s called upon.
Schmeichel; Simpson, Maguire, Morgan, Fuchs; Ndidi, James; Mahrez, Okazaki, Albrighton; Vardy.
Last 5 matches: WDDWL
Injuries: Daniel Amartey (Hamstring) –Out.
Emerson Palmieri vs. Riyad Mahrez
Claude Puel has done a good job with reincorporating Riyad Mahrez back into the Leicester City team as the Algerian dynamite carries the most threat for his team and Emerson Palmieri will surely find the going tough against the winger as he gets introduce to what being a fullback in England is all about. The Italian’s pace will stand him in good stead against Mahrez for sure.
N’Golo Kante vs. Wilfred Ndidi
Ndidi was on fire the last time these two teams met in January but I’m sure he won’t have it all his own way this time around not with Kante having anything to say or do about it. On the back of his stellar performance at the Camp Nou in midweek N’Golo Kante’s confidence would have shot up a few notches and thus should be ready for whatever Wilfred Ndidi might throw at him on Sunday.
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 going to be an explosive game of football for the neutrals as these two teams will have a go at each other with this representing a chance to end the season with silverware. Chelsea fan and columnist Giles Smith said in his Thursday column on the official Chelsea website that if the team could maintain the same intensity, energy and enthusiasm shown at the Camp Nou on Wednesday for the remainder of the season then our remaining target of finishing in the top four and winning the FA Cup is surely attainable and I couldn’t disagree with that notion because on another day we could have won that match by the same score line we lost it. It doesn’t get any easier for us from now till the end of the season as Spurs lie in wait next weekend but before that mammoth fixture we have the huge task of reaching the FA Cup semi-final at the expense of Leicester City. Come rain or shine BLUE will forever remain my Colour, see you next time!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: We Ain’t Got No History
Would you like to write for London is Blue? Click on the “contact us” tab located on the top menu, fill out the form, and we can get started!