A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s Premier League match at home against Leicester City.
This weekend sees a fairly rare occurrence for Chelsea – a home Premier League match at Stamford Bridge that kicks off at 3pm on a Saturday. Leicester City are the visitors in a match that sees 2 League Champions from the last 3 seasons go head to head.
The Blues are unbeaten in their last 7 meetings with Leicester in all competitions, winning 5 of them, and The Foxes haven’t won at The Bridge since 2000. So recent history would point towards Chelsea at least maintaining their unbeaten home record this season, but the visitors can be a very dangerous side.
Riyad Mahrez may have moved on to Manchester City during the summer but especially in Jamie Vardy, Leicester still carry a potent attack. Manager Claude Puel may be feeling a little under pressure at the moment as his side are currently in 12th position in the league. However, they are only 3 points adrift of 7th place and the last European qualification slot, which is where the club should be aiming.
Chelsea still lie in 4th place but are already starting to lose contact with the top 2, who Maurizio Sarri has quite rightly stated are much stronger. The Blues are more in a battle with both North London rivals and Manchester United for the other 2 Champions League qualifying positions.
The Italian is expected to name a full strength first choice line up for Leicester’s visit. Probably his only real decision will be who plays in the front 3. Olivier Giroud is the only fully fit striker, although Alvaro Morata returned to training this week. But the manager is likely to opt for Eden Hazard at the centre, flanked by Willian and Pedro as his attack.
This was a ploy used by Antonio Conte and now Sarri has used it in the victories over Brighton and Manchester City. The mobility of all 3 players can cause defensive issues for the opponents, as they change positions and their interplay. However, with no obvious target, crosses are even less frequent and the wide players use their preference of moving infield with the ball. This sadly narrows Chelsea’s attack, meaning that it is even more difficult to find space in what are generally overcrowded defensive areas. As a consequence, the ball shifts across the front of the penalty box and back again. It is a trait we are all getting used to witnessing, and relies heavily on the skill of Hazard or the angle of forward runs from Marcos Alonso to unlock.
Leicester may not be quite the team that famously won the Premier League in 2016, but they are still a dangerous opponent, with a solid looking robust pair of centre backs in Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire, along with their pacy attack which The Blues will need to keep a check on when they have counter attack opportunities.
But surely Chelsea will have too much for The Foxes and will keep up their impressive home form.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue