Match Preview: Chelsea at Leicester City #LEICHE
Premier League Matchweek 21
King Power Stadium | January 14th, 2017
The winning streak may be over, but Chelsea has a chance to start a brand new one at the home of the defending champions. The Blues travel to King Power Stadium to take on the Foxes for the third time this season. Chelsea have already beaten them twice, once in the league cup and once in the Premier league, and this game should run very like how that one went. Chelsea are still arguably the most dangerous team in the league even with the loss to Spurs, and Leicester have been just a shadow of their former self. They sit at 15th in the table, 6 points above the drop zone. With that being said, Leicester are still the defending champions and are certainly capable of handing Chelsea a second consecutive loss.
No Chelsea fan likes losing to Spurs, especially when a record-setting win streak is on the line. But as disappointing as that game was, the Blues are still first in the league with a 5 point cushion over Liverpool. With the form the Reds have been in, Chelsea cannot afford a slipup of any kind here.
The biggest question pertaining to the squad heading into this matchup is whether Nathan Ake will make his Chelsea debut this season. The young defender was recalled from Bournemouth, where he has recently played a crucial role on Eddie Howe’s team. Although he is a natural center-back, his athleticism allows him to be a backup full-back option behind Moses and Alonso. He is unlikely to get the start, seeing as he has been away from the team a while. If Alonso continues to struggle, we may see him in the lineup sooner rather than later.
Aside from that, expect Pedro to slot in alongside Hazard and Costa after a strong showing against Peterborough United in the FA Cup, as well as Matic once again getting the nod alongside Kante in the midfield.
What a difference a year makes. From kings of England to battling relegation, Leicester City find themselves fighting to stay above the drop. It’s quite confusing how a team could be languishing at the bottom of the table in domestic competition and at the same time make it to the knockout stages of the Champions League. The only time in English competition the Foxes seemed to be back to their old self was a win over Manchester City, but other than that it’s been underwhelming. Their two dynamic scorers from last year, Mahrez and Vardy, have 3 and 5 goals respectively this season. That’s the same number as Moses and Willian. The much-anticipated signing of Musa has only resulted in 2 goals, while Slimani only has 3. We all thought the loss of Kante would be huge hole for Leicester to fill, and it certainly seems that way up to this point of the season. Some of those aforementioned players won’t even be playing against Chelsea, as Mahrez, Slimani, and Daniel Amartey are all away with their respective countries for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Not all is doom and gloom however. Leicester’s last game was a spirited 2-1 victory over Everton in the FA Cup, as a brace by Musa was all they needed to progress to the next round. Reinforcements are arriving in the January transfer window, as Ranieri will not want to be known as the manager who had his team relegated a season after he won the league. He will have to get things sorted out in a hurry, and a win against Chelsea on Saturday will do a lot for his team’s confidence.
Injuries: Ulloa (out).
Away from team: Mahrez, Amartey, Slimani
Three Matchups to Watch
- Kante vs. Ndidi: Claudio Ranieri has confirmed that Wilfred Ndidi will make Premier League debut for the Foxes. The 20-year old Nigerian transferred here from Belgian club Gent, and is known for a tough, solid, hardworking defensive game. Sound familiar? It seems Leicester wants a direct replacement for N’golo Kante. Their fans are hoping Wilfred can be that for them. Although the two players will likely not go head to head because of their positions, outplaying N’golo can make Wilfred get noticed in England fast.
- Luiz vs. Vardy: to say the England international striker has underperformed this year would be a massive understatement. At this point last season, Vardy had an incredible 15 goals, while this year that total is down to 5. He hasn’t scored since a December 10th hat-trick against Man City. There’s no doubt that Leicester’s struggles this year can be tied together with Vardy’s. He needs to improve dramatically to help his club stay afloat. David Luiz will be tasked with leading the backline and shutting down Vardy. If he is successful, there is a good chance Chelsea comes out of this game with three points.
- Costa vs. Morgan: another example of a struggling Leicester stalwart is team captain Wes Morgan. A once solid backline has been leaking goals this year, and the play of Morgan has been a reason why. It will not get any easier for him today, as Diego Costa is thirsting for more goals to increase his lead. Morgan is known for being big, strong, and athletic, a combo that has been known to slow down Diego in the past. Similar to the Vardy/Luiz matchup, this is another one that may be crucial in determining a winner.