The lunchtime fixture on Saturday sees the last two teams to lift the Premier League trophy go head to head. Chelsea vs Leciester City at Stamford Bridge has the potential to be a game littered with goals.
Chelsea convincingly won the title in 2015 under José Mourinho. They could only watch last season as Leicester shocked the world to become champions of England for the first time in their history.
Leicester took four points off Chelsea in 2015-16. Their 2-1 victory at the King Power Stadium was the final nail in Mourinho’s coffin. He was sacked almost immediately afterwards. The return fixture took place on the final day of the season, a 1 – 1 draw. Cesc Fàbregas gave Chelsea the lead through a penalty, with Danny Drinkwater equalising late on. The result was irrelevant, however. Leicester had already been confirmed as champions, and Chelsea had long since been consigned to mid-table.
Chelsea opened the season with three straight wins over West Ham, Watford and Burnley. After a 2-2 draw at Swansea, they suffered two straight defeats to two of their biggest rivals. The home defeat to Liverpool was disappointing, but the 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal was humiliating. They got back on track before the international break with a 2-0 win over Hull City. Chelsea’s inconsistent form sees them lying 7th in the Premier League table. As a result, Talksport reported on Thursday that bookmakers have suspended betting on Antonio Conte being sacked.
Leicester seem to be suffering the same post-title hangover that affected Chelsea last season. Their best form has been saved for the Champions League, winning both of their fixtures against Club Brugge and Porto. They have won just two of their opening seven league games, however, at home to Swansea and Burnley. Both of their last two away fixtures, at Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, saw them lose 4-1. Their last match was a 0-0 draw at home to Southampton. They currently sit 12th in the table, but unlike his fellow countryman, Claudio Ranieri doesn’t appear to be under any pressure.
Team News – Chelsea
Chelsea winger Willian will definitely be absent from the matchday squad, having been given compassionate leave following his mother’s death. Club captain John Terry will face a late fitness test on the ankle injury that has restricted him to four appearances this term. He is back in training, but will likely be on the bench. Victor Moses is another who may return, having missed international duty for Nigeria with a thigh problem.
Conte used a 3-4-3 formation to get Chelsea back to winning ways against Hull City. The absence of Willian, and possibly Moses, could mean he needs to rethink this. He may opt to recall Fàbregas in a midfield three with N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matić, and return to a flat back four. There may also be a recall for former Barcelona winger Pedro, who has started just one league game so far. Diego Costa, with six league goals, and Eden Hazard will most likely lead the attack.
Likely Line-up: Courtois, Ivanović, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Kante, Matić, Fàbregas, Moses, Hazard, Costa.
Team News – Leicester
Leicester are sweating on the fitness of inspirational midfielder Danny Drinkwater. He was not considered for the England squad after suffering a groin injury, but is expected to return. Their only other injury is French midfielder Nampalys Mendy, whose ankle injury rules him out of contention.
The attacking outlet of Riyard Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, so potent last season has looked rather muted this campaign. Some attribute this to the added dimension of Algerian striker Islam Slimani. So far the trio have not gelled as an attacking unit, and Vardy is the one who has suffered with just two league goals. Ranieri may be tempted to drop him in order to strike a balance.
There are plenty of midfield options for Leicester to consider. Ghana star Daniel Amartey, Marc Albrighton and Japanese maestro Shinji Okazaki are all in contention. Demarai Gray was on the bench against Southampton, despite scoring a screamer at Old Trafford the previous week.
Likely Line-Up: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Drinkwater, Gray, Albrighton, Okazaki, Mahrez, Slimani.
Chelsea vs Leicester City was always going to provide plenty of talking points, even before a ball was kicked. Former Stamford Bridge chief Ranieri returns to face a man he once tried to sign in Antonio Conte. Should he get one over his fellow countryman, history may well repeat itself. Chelsea’s last manager was fired after a defeat against Leicester.
The champions are looking to pick up their first away point of their Premier League campaign. The last time they got a positive result on the road was, ironically, in this fixture last season. They are already ten points behind current table toppers Manchester City. It does look as though they left themselves too much to do in terms of retaining their title.