Chelsea will be hoping to return to winning ways as they welcome Leicester City to Stamford Bridge. It will be a difficult test for the home side as they have failed to win in any of their last three matches and they need to start showing a clinical edge in the final third. Although they haven’t been losing matches, they haven’t been winning and that is a concern for a team that wants to challenge for major honours. The visitors have climbed into the top eight since the appointment of Claude Puel and they will be looking to move further up the table before May. This is a great opportunity to prove that they can compete with the top six.
There have been problems at Stamford Bridge this season and that is why Chelsea find themselves a long way off the pace. Last season, they were the ones running away with the title at the top of the division and now, they are competing only for a Champions League place. The competitiveness of the Premier League means it is unrealistic to stay at the top for long, but Antonio Conte will have wanted to put up more of a fight in their title defence. They remain in the three cup competitions and they must be taken seriously by the club if they are to maintain their winning mentality.
Leicester City are at a unique crossroads, as relegation is unlikely, but a push for Europe is most likely beyond them. They will want to finish as the best of the rest in 7th position and they are currently just four points behind Burnley. It was disappointing to see them play a significantly weakened team in the FA Cup and they nearly suffered due to that decision. That competition should be taken seriously as they have a great chance of making it to the latter stages considering the majority of the Premier League have more important things to deal with.
Chelsea have scored the fewest goals out of the top five clubs in the Premier League. Their attacking play has been a real concern in recent weeks and they will be aiming to improve it sooner rather than later.
Leicester City are the only team outside of the top six with a positive goal difference. It currently stands at +2.
The Chelsea striker has been questioned in recent weeks after some poor finishing in recent matches. In the club’s last Premier League match against Arsenal, the Spanish international missed three one-on-one chances. That resulted in doubt being cast over his composure in front of goal. Against the same opposition in the Carabao Cup, he looked short on confidence and Conte needs to find a way to resolve that as the striker is his main goal threat. If he isn’t confident and on form, the Blues become reliant on Eden Hazard to produce a moment of magic, which have been few and far between this season. His record in the Premier League is good on the whole, as he has contributed 10 goals and four assists. He has been a long way from being a flop. However, the club are hoping for more from him as they see him as a potential world class striker. A strong performance against Leicester is required to see the striker return to form.
There has been a lot of transfer speculation surrounding Riyad Mahrez and his future at Leicester City. There have been links to both Liverpool and Arsenal, both of whom are in the market for attacking reinforcements. After playing a huge part in Leicester’s title win of 2015/16, he deserves an opportunity to move to a bigger club and it is likely that the Foxes will agree to a sale in the near future. This weekend will provide him with a chance to prove that he can play well against the best teams in England. The Algerian international has scored two goals and contributed three assists during the last four Premier League matches. He is finding his best form at the perfect time and he will want to maintain that through January. Chelsea are a very well organised team and it could time a mercurial talent to break them down on Saturday. If the away side are to take anything from the game, they will need the winger to be at his influential best.
Ross Barkley is unlikely to make his debut as he continues to build up his fitness after moving to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are probably going to continue with their 3-5-2 formation, which means starts for Morata and Eden Hazard. It will be an interesting call in the middle of the park as Danny Drinkwater has been underwhelming. A return to the starting eleven for Tieumoue Bakayoko seems likely.
Christian Fuchs and Adrien Silva are both doubts for the visitors. Jamie Vardy, Vicente Iborra and Robert Huth are all battling to be fit in time to start on Saturday. However, Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson are likely to miss out through injury.
This could be one of the matches of the weekend, as Leicester have played great football under Claude Puel. They will go to Stamford Bridge with a positive attitude and have every chance of leaving with something if they play to their potential. The pace of Mahrez, Demerai Gray and Vardy will be a huge threat. However, Chelsea have been disappointing recently and it seems only a matter of time before they return to winning ways. The home advantage should be enough to give them the points, but it won’t be a routine afternoon for them.
Chelsea 2-1 Leicester City