In what is one of the games of the weekend in the top-flight of English football, the current champions clash against Antonio Conte’s champions elect. With both sides enjoying, or enduring, completely opposite campaigns to that of last season, which side can earn a huge victory that could either make or break their season?
Going into this clash in the East Midlands, it would appear that the Foxes and the Blues and swapped league positions yet again in 2016/17. As Chelsea marched to the Premier League crown in 2015, Leicester, then managed by Nigel Pearson, finished 46 points behind in 14th position.
However, the following campaign was a different story. Miraculously, Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes were the team then sitting atop the Premier League table with Chelsea languishing in tenth position at the end of the season, 31 points behind on a total of 50.
Now, the Blues are again back to their dominant best and have led the way for the majority of the campaign and are currently 28 points ahead of the reigning champions. The East-Midlanders have so far produced a turgid defence of their title. Already losing nine times in the league, Ranieri’s troops are struggling in 15th and have craved for consistency.
A formality for the Blues?
It could be said then that the away side will power to an easy victory on Saturday evening. This prediction could be backed-up by Chelsea’s recent results against the Foxes. Winning 10 of the last 12 in all competitions since 2001, scoring 34 goals in the process, the omens look positive for Antonio Conte’s side.
As a matter of fact, the former Juventus boss has already earned victory over Claudio Ranieri twice this season. First travelling to the King Power Stadium in the EFL Cup in September, the Londoners found themselves 2-0 down thanks to a brace from Shinji Okazaki. A Gary Cahill poke and a long-range wonder strike from Cesar Azpilicueta hauled the visitors level. Cesc Fabregas then scored twice in extra-time to ensure the Blues’ progression.
A month later, the Foxes visited Stamford Bridge in the league. Although, a 3-0 humbling followed as strikes from Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses saw the home side waltz to the three points.
How are the two sides playing?
Coming into the match-up at the King Power Stadium, both teams are in good form. Following their disastrous start, the champions have only lost two out of their last seven games and are undefeated in three.
Having earnt victories over the likes of Manchester City, West Ham United and Everton in recent times, the Foxes will be somewhat optimistic heading into this clash. In fact, the team will be keen to earn back-to-back victories in all competitions for the first time this season after their win at Goodison Park in the FA Cup last time out.
Elsewhere, Chelsea have only lost twice since October and only one of those losses have been in the Premier League – a 2-0 reverse at the hands of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in their last league game. It goes without saying then that Conte’s men will look to bounce-back at the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening.
Following both teams’ excursions in FA Cup action last weekend, there could be a few changes to the team sheets.
Wilfred N’Didi could be in for his Premier League debut after impressing against the Toffees in Leicester’s 2-1 win. Ahmed Musa may also be included after netting twice at Goodison Park. Midfielder Andy King could return after recovering from injury while forward Jamie Vardy is available for selection after serving his suspension.
Although, fellow striker Leonardo Ulloa will miss out after sustaining a thigh problem last weekend which may pave the way for Shinji Okazaki to start with both Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez away on international duty with Algeria. Daniel Amartey is also absent serving at the African Cup of Nations with Ghana.
Elsewhere, the visitors’ have to contend with two losses on Saturday evening; John Terry who serves a suspension following his straight red card in the 4-1 win over Peterborough United in the FA Cup and Diego Costa has been dropped from the line-up following a reported bust-up with Blues' boss Conte.
Supporters though can expect to see key players such as Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and David Luiz included in the starting XI. One player who will be hoping to make an impact is N’Golo Kante who returns to face his former club for this first time.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Musa, Drinkwater, N’Didi, Mendy, Gray; Vardy.
Chelsea: Courtois; Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Moses, Matic, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Pedro, Costa.