Chelsea will aim to progress to the semi-finals of the FA Cup as they travel to King Power Stadium to face Leicester City on Sunday.
Chelsea bowed out of the UEFA Champions League after a crushing defeat at the hands of Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Round of 16 second leg. The Blues know well enough that FA Cup is their best shot at a trophy this season and Antonio Conte would like to progress to the semi-finals of the competition.
Leicester City, on the other hand, could stand a chance to qualify for Europe as well, through the competition. The Foxes do not stand a realistic chance of finishing in the European qualification places in the Premier League and thus, the aforementioned prospect will serve as an additional incentive for the game on Sunday.
Chelsea beat Hull City comfortably in the previous round, with a 4-0 win while Leicester City somehow managed to eke over the line with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United.
Their last encounter at the King Power Stadium saw Chelsea manage to get the win, but only just, with a scoreline of 2-1. Ahead of their latest meeting, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Daniel Amartey is the only player sidelined for the Foxes. With the game serving as the final one before the international break, Claude Puel should field a strong starting eleven on Sunday.
Kasper Schmeichel will have to be up to the task in goal for Leicester City. But, he will hope to get adequate cover from a defence that has managed to be impressive in recent times. Harry Maguire is an automatic starter at the back and while Wes Morgan is the logical choice to partner him at centre-back, Puel could go with the more agile Aleksandar Dragovic.
The partnership of Demarai Gray and Riyad Mahrez on either flank will be the main danger going forward while the strike pairing of Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy serves as the perfect outlet for goals. Okazaki will look to play on the back of Vardy again, finding space on the pitch and looking to exploit any gaping holes in the three-man backline.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Simpson, Dragovic, Maguire, Fuchs; Mahrez, Ndidi, Iborra, Gray; Vardy, Okazaki
David Luiz and Ross Barkley are confirmed absentees for the tie while Ethan Ampadu is a doubt and could make the bench on Sunday, if fit.
While the backline is likely to remain the same from Barcelona, Conte could field a more familiar back three of Cahill, Azpilicueta and Christensen against Leicester.
As far as midfield is concerned, N’Golo Kante was brilliant against Barcelona and should start in midfield. One of the main points of contention will be as to who starts upfront. Olivier Giroud was afforded a start as the main striker against Barcelona, with a fully fit Alvaro Morata on the bench.
Morata though, should start instead of Giroud as the main striker while Hazard and Willian should make up the numbers upfront.
Chelsea will be looking to pile on the pressure from the get-go in order to secure a place in the semi-finals. But, the Blues will have to be wary of the counters from Leicester City and the pace of Vardy, Mahrez and Gray.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Hazard; Morata
1. Leicester have a terrible home record against Chelsea in recent times, with the Foxes recording just 1 win in the last six games.
2. The Foxes have not managed a single clean sheet in their last six games at home against Chelsea in all competitions.
3. Their head-to-head record in the FA Cup is not promising either, with Chelsea progressing in all of their five previous meetings.
4. Leicester City haven’t progressed to the semi-finals of the FA Cup since the 1981-82 season.
5. Olivier Giroud has a brilliant record in the FA Cup, with 14 goals and 7 assists in 24 appearances in the competition
Player to Watch
There are many players worth keeping an eye on Sunday. But, if Leicester City are to end up shocking Chelsea, much of the onus will be on Shinji Okazaki. The player had been written off by many, with the arrival of Kelechi Iheanacho and Islam Slimani. But, the Japanese international has shown that his tenacity and ability to spring up with important goals is second to none within the squad.
With Chelsea deploying a back-three and under pressure of late, with a string of unimpressive results, Okazaki can trouble their defence with his movement and will be one of the focal points of Leicester’s attack on Sunday.
Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea
The history is against Leicester City, both recent and otherwise. The Foxes have not progressed to the semi-finals in the past 30 years and more. Also, they face an opponent that has upstaged them at the King Power regularly.
Still, Chelsea seem to be a club that are in trouble of sorts, as regards their recent results and this presents Leicester City as the perfect springboard to secure a berth in the semi-finals of the competition. We expect a tough and even game, but one where the home side manages to come out on top.