There are some great fixtures in the Premier League this weekend, but the pick of the bunch could be the very first one. Chelsea travel to Leicester City as they try to return to winning ways in the league. Meanwhile, the Foxes will be desperate to bounce back from Carabao Cup disappointment with a statement result against a top-four rival. Although the Blues will be keeping one eye on the teams below them in the Champions League race, they need to continue chasing those above. There are currently eight points between these two clubs. A win for the home side will all but confirm their top-three finish.
It has been a remarkable season for Leicester City in Brendan Rodgers’ first full campaign in the hot seat. They have taken advantage of the issues at Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal. The Foxes are in the top four at the time of writing, with a healthy lead of 14 over fifth position. They won’t be getting complacent, but it is very difficult to see them being caught by either Manchester United or Tottenham. That said, they will be disappointed about the failure to reach the Carabao Cup final. Those beneath them will hope that it leads to a run of poor results for them. A strong performance is needed on Saturday to remove any doubts among supporters.
Chelsea will be pleased with their season if they manage to cling on to their top-four position. There have been many slip-ups and failure to make good performances count, but the emergence of several talented young players has been positive. This is a huge opportunity for them to re-start their season. If they manage to get three points, they will move within five of Leicester City. That will give the players and supporters belief that they can triumph in the big matches. Ahead of the return of the Champions League, that is important.
- Leicester City have only managed to keep one clean sheet in their last six matches across all competitions.
- Chelsea have scored two or more goals in four of their last five matches across all competitions.
The Leicester City striker is likely to return to the starting eleven, despite the good goal-scoring form shown by Kelechi Iheanacho. Vardy was injured in the previous league game, but he came off the bench against Aston Villa during the week. It will be hoped that he can return to goal-scoring form against Chelsea, as the Foxes need him back to his best to maintain their momentum. At the age of 33, it was unlikely that he would keep scoring at the rate that he was. However, it is worrying that he has scored only once since the 8th December. His injury didn’t help, but he has featured in eight matches during this time. In the same period, Iheanacho has scored three times and his steady improvement will begin to put the pressure on Vardy. That said, this weekend could see him return to form. Since arriving in the Premier League, he has thrived in matches against top-six teams. Against Chelsea, he has four goals in 11 matches and he will be hoping to add to that on Saturday. The Blues can be vulnerable at the back and they won’t be relishing the task of containing the current Premier League top scorer.
This is a special game for N’Golo Kante as he faces the club that brought him to England. Although he was only a Leicester player for a single season, he had a transformative effect on the club, playing a leading role in their shock Premier League title triumph. This has been the worst season of the Frenchman’s Premier League career so far, as he has been hindered by injuries and failed to find his rhythm. Frank Lampard has continued to use him in a box-to-box role, in a similar way to how he was utilised by Maurizio Sarri. However, there have been similar issues in terms of the balance of the midfield. Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic, Mason Mount and Ross Barkley have all been used, but it isn’t clear which combination is the best. Despite his struggles, it is obvious that Kante is the best of the lot. If the Blues are to finish the season strongly, they will need to him to get back to his best. His return of three goals has been handy, while his average of 4.3 ball recoveries per game show his ball-winning qualities remain. A return to his former home could spark an upturn in form for the 28-year-old.
Jamie Vardy is set to return to the starting eleven following his leg injury. Leicester don’t have many injury concerns, but Nampalys Mendy is expected to be out until March.
Tammy Abraham is a major doubt for the visitors, due to the injury he picked up in the Arsenal game. Michy Batshuayi is on standby for his first Premier League start of the season. It is hoped that Kante and Reece James will be fit to start. Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are not available.
This is going to be a good indicator of where Chelsea are under Frank Lampard. Leicester are currently ahead of them in the league table, but the Blues will be hoping to finish above them in May. For that to happen, they must win on Saturday. The Foxes have not been at their best in recent weeks, as their struggles against Aston Villa showed. They are more vulnerable at the back, which should provide a boost for the visitors. It is likely to be a great game with goals at both ends. An entertaining score draw looks the most likely result, with neither team in great form.
Leicester City 2-2 Chelsea