King Power Stadium, Leicester
Monday, 14th December; 2000 GMT
Chelsea and its contingent of supporters will make the 105-mile journey up the M1 to face top-of-the-table Leicester City at their home since 2002, the King Power Stadium.
Unless one has been living under a rock, we all know by now Leicester City will be the story of the season, irrespective of where they finish. We also know by now that Jamie Vardy has become a household name in Europe, let alone England. So much so, that Roy Hodgson has been talking about him leading the line for his country in Euro 2016. A combination of hard working midfielders, rock solid defenders and in-form strikers has made the Foxes the team to beat. Since losing to Chelsea last season in April, they have lost just once in their 19 games since. Some form.
On the other hand, we have the reigning champions of England who are playing nothing like it. If the home team has been the form team this season, the visitors have been the most disappointing. Sitting at 15th place in the table with just 15 points to their name, their season has not yet kick-started. Every time they seem to have turned a corner, a bad result pops up. Case in point, the defeat at home last weekend to Bournemouth after a run of three good results.
Team news and tactics
Former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, fresh from his manager of the month award for November, announced that he has a full squad of players to choose from. Only Ricthie de Laet and Matty James will miss out. On-loan winger Nathan Dyer is available for selection again after missing out against his parent club Swansea last weekend.
The Foxes will be expected to line up in a 4-4-2 formation with intent to attack. Danny Drinkwater and Na Golo Kante will shore up the midfield in the center while the pace of Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton support from the wings. Their defensively brittle opponents should be wary of the pace they have in attack, especially when breaking into a counter. Man of the moment Vardy will lead the line when doing so while being ably supported upfront by Shinji Okazaki. Much of their attacks stem from the center of midfield with support of pacy wingers and two in-form strikers.
If Vardy has been the story of the season so far, it is in no small part thanks to his midfielders. The combination of Mahrez and Vardy has scored more goals than the entire Chelsea team has so far this season. Unsung heroes Drinkwater and Kante have also been sensational in their respective roles a the proverbial engine room of this team.
Possible lineup (4-4-2): Schmeichel (GK), Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Kante, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy
Jose Mourinho announced in his pre-match press conference that he has a fully fit squad to choose from. Falcao, who missed the past few games for Chelsea, is also fit again and available for selection.
The visitors will be expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation like always. Nemanja Matic and Ramires are in line to start as the two holding midfielders while their partners in midfield up front remaining a mystery. It is difficult to predict a Mourinho team especially when they arena t playing well since he keeps trying combinations of players till they hit form. Having said that, we expect that the same midfield from the Porto game in midweek could start, meaning more bench time for Cesc Fabregas and Pedro. It would also mean that Diego Costa will be back to lead the line in attack again after being dropped from league outings in the previous 2 matches.
Of the two teams, this is more of a must win for Chelsea. The confidence gained from qualifying for the Champions League knockouts could be a boost. However, this is turning out to be a familiar story this season a with them seeming to turn the corner only to run into a bad result.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Courtois (GK), Azpilicueta, Zouma, Terry, Ivanovic; Matic, Ramires; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Costa
Player to watch out for
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
It was a tough choice selecting between Vardy and him, but the Algerian edged ahead because of his hat-trick against Swansea last weekend. He has been been responsible for 16 of his sidea s 32 goals this season, scoring 10 and assisting 6 of them. While the English striker up front has been winning the plaudits this season, it has in fact been Mahrez who has been the puppet master pulling the strings from midfield.
- Chelsea have won all of their last 6 Premier League meetings with Leicester
- Jamie Vardy has now scored or assisted in the last 13 games on the trot.
- Chelsea have now failed to score in their past 2 away games, a third one will make it their worst run since 2002 when Ranieri was their manager.
- Leicester City have won 7 of their last 10 home games, losing only once during this time.
Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea
The home side are the clear favourites to win this one and could heap more trouble on the current champions. A loss here would send them close to the relegation zone, a sight that could make Chelsea fans lose their sleep.