The FourFourTwo Preview: Leicester vs Chelsea
The Premier League’s winning machine… faces Chelsea.
- Burnley 0-1 Leicester (Prem)
- Leicester 2-0 Swansea (Prem)
- WBA 2-3 Leicester (Prem)
- Leicester 2-1 West Ham (Prem)
- Spurs 4-3 Leicester (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- QPR 0-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Hull 2-3 Chelsea (Prem)
So the champagne corks aren’t quite popping for Jose Mourinho’s mob just yet, but Roman’s best bottles are on ice ready for Sunday’s prospective title party at Stamford Bridge.
Six points will guarantee the Blues a fourth Premier League title and wrap up what has essentially been a stroll of a season for Jose & Co. – heck, some might even call it boring.
First, though, the west Londoners must end the top flight’s longest current winning run. A rejuvenated Leicester side have transformed a dismal season to give themselves a huge chance of surviving the drop.
Four wins on the spin – the latest a crucial smash-and-grab at Burnley which lifted Nigel Pearson’s side out of the drop zone for the first time in five months – have been just reward for a Foxes side whose plucky endeavours were looking good for nothing more than a speedy trip back to the Championship.
Leicester’s remaining fixtures are significantly kinder than some of their drop-dodging rivals’ – after this they welcome a spiralling Newcastle side before tussles with Sunderland and QPR – but you won’t find Pearson getting carried away. “I can sense when there is a shift, and all of a sudden it’s ‘Leicester will be all right now’. Bulls***,” he told the Guardian last week.
Come to think of it, it’s hard to imagine anything that Leicester’s brusque boss would get carried away with, though in this situation he’s right – the Foxes need no reminder of how quickly things can turn around.
Nevertheless, Pearson will likely see this as something of a bonus game, what with Chelsea having lost only twice all season and looked as impregnable as Mother Teresa in a chastity belt. Dull, though? Nuh-huh.
“[That Chelsea are boring] cannot be true,” he grumbled. “If a number of goals decides it, we have 18 teams more boring than us. Maybe in the future football will be played without goals. Football is about putting the ball in the net and stopping the opponent putting the ball in your net.” That’s football, Jose. Quite literally.
Chelsea are unbeaten against Leicester since February 2001, when the Foxes completed a season double with a 2-1 win over the Blues at Filbert Street. Ade Akinbiyi replaced Roberto Mancini on the hour mark.
Having tweaked his starting line-up at Burnley, Pearson may be forced to shuffle his pack again. Jamie Vardy is struggling with a foot problem having only played at Turf Moor thanks to an injection, while Jeff Schlupp and David Nugent could both miss out with calf injuries. Danny Drinkwater will be assessed.
“It’s not too bad getting players prepared, but we have a game earlier on a Saturday having played Wednesday, but that’s how it is,” said Pearson. “It’s not a case of making a scene out of it. It is what it is.”
Chelsea trained at St George’s Park on Tuesday to prepare, with Oscar and Diego Costa both doubts. “I really don’t know how Oscar is,” said Mourinho, “but the most important thing is that he is not in hospital. He went immediately to his house yesterday and slept at home.
“I don’t know about Diego Costa. I have to think about if it deserves a gamble or if we wait a few more days to be completely sure. If it was a player without an injury history I would play him tomorrow, but because he is a player with a history I have to think about that.”
Key battle: Esteban Cambiasso vs Cesc Fabregas
Cultured midfielders collide in a bid to crack the other lot’s backline at the King Power Stadium.
Cambiasso’s debut campaign in a Leicester shirt hasn’t disappointed Foxes fans – particularly in an attacking sense – and the chances of him staying on another year are now looking better by the week.
The Argentine won the treble with Inter in 2009/10 under Mourinho, who lauded his former charge. “He belongs to my golden team, was fundamental in my golden team,” chirped the Portuguese. “He's one of the players who means a lot to me, and he's been phenomenal for them. I'm happy for him.”
Mourinho was disgruntled that his current pass-master Fabregas wasn’t included in the PFA’s team of the year. The Spaniard huffed through a low-key return to Arsenal on Sunday, though, with the Guardian’s Barney Ronay noting that he looked like “a kind of footballing Stephen Hawking, the trundling mega‑brain in need of a supporting entourage to wheel him into place”.
The crux is that Fabregas is something of a single-pronged playmaker – he boasts an exceptional range of forward passing, but requires others to do the work around him. Nevertheless, Leicester’s potentially leaky rearguard must beware.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 2-0 Leic (PL, Aug 14)
- Chelsea 5-2 Leic (FAC, Mar 12)
- Chelsea 4-3 Leic (LC, Oct 07)
- Leic 0-4 Chelsea (PL, Jan 04)
- Chelsea 2-1 Leic (PL, Aug 03)
“Jose, well played. Feel free to stop by for a post-match tipple later.”
[Sometime later] “Nigel, Nigel. You fought so well. You will stay up. Now, what are we drinking here… Nigel? There’s literally just some milk and a crumpled can of Special Brew in here. Are you kidding me?”
“Jose, calm down. There’s nowt wrong with a good cuppa at this time of night. Sugar? Don’t mind the Special Brew, Steve Bruce was here a few weeks back.”
“Nigel, this is unacceptable. Hang on a minute, why is Brucie’s head on that spike? And I think I can make out Mark Hughes’ frown there. And… is that James McArthur’s hand?! Nigel, why are you looking at me like that? NIIIIIGEEEELLL...”
“… Hello, Arsene? It’s done.”
Facts and figures
- Chelsea have won the last 5 Premier League games in a row against Leicester.
- Leicester are looking to win 5 successive top-flight games for the first time since January 1964.
- Jose Mourinho has seen his Chelsea side keep a clean sheet in 103 of his 191 Premier League games in charge (54%).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Leicester to give it a good crack, but Chelsea to prevail – they're champions elect for a reason. 1-3.