Our football scribe previews the EPL matchup between Leicester City and Chelsea.
Claudio Ranieri will be looking to put Leicester City’s ignominious first half of the campaign behind him. They face potential title-successors Chelsea this week in what could prove to be a pivotal weekend in the complexion of the entire title-chase.
Chelsea’s defeat to Spurs was even more remarkable giving the timid nature in which they surrendered that marvellous winning run. Antonio Conte will be keen to prove that was just a blip and reassert their domination this week. Leicester did manage a morale-boosting victory over Everton in the Cup and may view this as the perfect match to relaunch their flagging league campaign.
English Premier League | Saturday 14 January | King Power Stadium | 19:30
To Win (90 Mins)
Leicester 17/4 | Draw 28/10 | Chelsea 6/10
Leicester City will have been buoyed by the performance of Wilfred Ndidi on his full debut for the club, especially with Daniel Amartey potentially out for up to seven games on AFCON duty. He looks just the type of player who could fulfil the veritable chasm left by N’Golo Kante.
Amartey also allows them the opportunity to play around with a 4-3-3 formation and may be useful in counteracting the power of that Chelsea midfield. Ndidi, Nampalys Mendy and Danny Drinkwater would make a fairly formidable wall of three for Chelsea to dissect.
In Jamie Vardy of course, they have the pace that could go beyond and trouble Chelsea’s vaunted back three. Giving the huge absence of Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani due to the AFCON, Ranieri will have to utilise Shinji Okazaki and Demarai Gray in wide areas.
Gray’s pace could prove penetrative, but there does seem to be one too many key players absent this week. Additionally, attempting to competently operationalize a new system against a side as well drilled and orchestrated as Chelsea could prove rather costly.
Chelsea will perhaps feel a little relieved that all the talk of record-breaking has subsided. They still have a five–point lead over their closest rivals and know that Leicester have a huge amount of selection dilemmas with the AFCON.
I think that Conte may tinker a little with his midfield and include influential maestro Cesc Fabregas in the starting line-up ahead of Matic. The Serbian looked really flat against Spurs and didn’t really provide anything going forward. Fabregas’ vision will be able to release Diego Costa and company upon a fragile Foxes defensive line-up.
The suspension of John Terry will have no impact on the side while it’s good to see that Kurt Zouma is waiting in the wings following a terrible injury lay-off.
Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso will know that they have a pace advantage on both Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson, while Costa will be up to his usual antics against the pair of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. I suspect that his pace and power could prove a handful for as pairing whose collective age has looked to have caught up to them his season.
Verdict: Halftime/Fulltime - Draw/Chelsea Win (32/10)
Leicester could hold on for an hour here, especially with Chelsea feeling a little fragile in the wake of that Spurs result. But I expect the Blues to come out in the second half and find what it takes to get three points. Get on the Halftime/Fulltime - Draw/Chelsea win at 32/10.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets