Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
Leicester City v Chelsea | Monday 14 December | King Power Stadium | 22:00
Let’s just take a trip back in time, if you will. This time last year, Leicester were bottom of the league, almost certainly heading for another Championship dogfight. Chelsea were top of the league, well on their way to another Premier League title. Pearson was getting involved in scraps with the players on the field while Mourinho was lapping up adulation with that Cheshire Cat smile. Now Leicester sit atop the table with former manager Claudio Ranieri not steering too far away from the Pearson blueprint. Chelsea, on the other hand, languish two points above the drop zone with a manager engaged in a multitude of controversies. They say a year is a lifetime in the world of football; this Monday night encounter is the personification of that phrase.
To win match (90 Mins)
Leicester City 21/10
Claudio Ranieri’s reputation as a ‘tinkerman’ has been gradually eroded this season. Leicester have used fewer players than any other side in the Premier League, with Ranieri showing commendable faith in many of Nigel Pearson’s brood. Jamie Vardy’s renaissance can be attributed to the amicable Italian though, with Ranieri deploying the striker in a far more central role, with Ulloa playing a more supporting role. Riyad Mahrez is perhaps the real coup for the Foxes this year, with a newfound willingness to take on opposition players supplementing his terrific technique and vision.
Marc Albrighton has been wonderful this season, playing in a far more disciplined manner to the one he was accustomed to at Villa. He will look to disrupt a slightly cagey Ivanovic at every moment, while Kante bursts from midfield with the speed and power of a diminutive Paul Pogba. The central defensive pairing of Huth and Morgan should be able to contend with an underperforming Costa. It’s Hazard and Willian who could really disturb the ‘generously experienced’ pair: one area where I see Chelsea potentially giving Leicester a problem.
Jose Mourinho’s Jekyll and Hyde season continued this week with yet another professional European display salvaging a dismal domestic performance. Perhaps Chelsea - safe in the knowledge that they qualified in top position - can finally refocus on their catastrophic title defence. They will need to pick up their energy levels drastically if they want to curtail Leicester’s fantastic start to the season.
You can just see the pattern of this game from the outset, with Chelsea dominating possession, but battling to penetrate for long periods, making them grow ever more frustrated and desperate, opening themselves up to Leicester’s ferocious counterattacks.
Diego Costa, at least, showed a little gumption against Porto, while Willian continued to impress. I don’t feel that Costa will get much physical change out of Morgan and Huth. It’s Hazard cutting inside that will pose the real threat to Leicester. Kante and Drinkwater bring terrific industry to the midfield, and it’s up to Matic and probably Ramires to try to extinguish that threat. I feel that Vardy and Mahrez will stretch Chelsea’s static defensive line-up, opening up room for Kante and Drinkwater to explode from midfield. Additionally, Albrighton may also have the beating of Ivanovic should the Serb start on Monday night.
Verdict: Double Chance - Leicester to win or draw 6/10Leicester just have far too much good juju on their side, with several dynamic players in their ranks. Chelsea’s vast array of quality may see them acquire a point, but all in all I think Ranieri’s reunion with Chelsea should be a satisfactory one.
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