NEWS

Chelsea v Leicester: Battle of the former champions (preview)

October 12, 2016

Winning the Premier League has proved something of a poisoned chalice recently.

In the 2014/15 season, Jose Mourinho led Chelsea to the highest prize in English domestic football for the third time, and was named Premier League Manager of the Season in the process.

Fast forward to December and he was out of a job, leaving by mutual consent after losing nine of their sixteen league games and getting knocked out of the League Cup by Stoke City on penalties in October.

The contract keeping him at Stamford Bridge signed the August before was apparently not worth the paper on which it was printed.

Fallen foxes

Events haven’t been quite as dramatic for Leicester City and Claudio Ranieri, who has always maintained their first top-flight triumph as an anomaly almost never to be repeated.

The Foxes won the title by ten points in May but they have had a troubled season so far. They currently sit 12th in the league with eight points from seven games and they’ve already as many games this season as they did in all of last season (three).

Most notable was their drubbing at Old Trafford, which saw Manchester United gain a four-goal lead without reply before half-time. This made Leicester the first defending Premier League champions to concede four goals in a single half. Concerningly, three of these stemmed from corners that really should have been stopped.

That loss came just four days after Leicester lost 4-2 to Chelsea in the third round of the League Cup after Cesc Fabregas bagged two extra-time goals.

Saturday lunchtime will see the two meet again just 25 days after that League Cup clash, Ranieri’s Foxes will be keen to get one back on Antonio Conte’s men.

Terry returns

Chelsea’s defence was given a boost as John Terry returned to training this week after an ankle ligament injury sustained during a 2-2 draw with Swansea sidelined the 35-year old full-back for a month.

Eden Hazard started this season bright but his form has dipped in tandem with Chelsea’s disappointing results. However, he could be brimming with confidence after captaining Belgium to a 6-0 rout of Gibraltar, assisting Christian Benteke to a hattrick and scoring the final goal with 11 minutes to go.

Leicester have almost been a Jekyll and Hyde club, depending on whether they’re at home or not. At the King Power Stadium, they resemble last season’s wonder boys but on their travels, Leicester have looked the vulnerable league strugglers of old.

Islam Slimani has hit the ground running after his £30 million arrival and the Foxes will be relying on link-up play with Jamie Vardy if they are to get anything against Chelsea. Speaking of Vardy, he’ll be glad to have something to do after spending the duration of England’s goalless World Cup qualifier against Slovenia on the bench.

It looked as if Leicester would have had to do without Shinji Okazaki after picked up an ankle injury during Japan’s 2-1 win over Iraq. However, the 30-year old striker declared himself fit enough for his country’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Australia.

Okazaki may be Japan’s third highest goalscorer but he hasn’t been nearly as potent for his domestic club, bagging five goals from 40 league appearances for the Foxes since signing in June 2015.

He does know how to penetrate Chelsea though, scoring the first two goals in last month’s League Cup clash so Ranieri could call on Okazaki to make the difference on Saturday.

Hospitality packages are still available for the clash, which kicks off on Saturday 15th October at 12.30.

By Sam Coates

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