Chelsea 4th (11-4-2) vs Leicester City 12th (6-4-7)
Live from Stamford Bridge at 10 AM ET on CNBC
Both teams are fresh off different results from the Carabao Cup and will be ready for a tough Premier League tie. It may be a bit cliche to say both teams need a win, but a tight top five and a congested race for sixth place means three points can go very far at this point in the season.
Chelsea have allowed six goals in their last five league matches and won three of their five in that span. The most remarkable part was the complete shutout of Manchester City, while the most lackluster was the 3-1 and 2-1 defeats to Tottenham and Wolverhampton respectively. Chelsea are a strange side. You never quite know whether they’re going to hit you for 5 goals or play so laissez-faire on defense that you sneak a 2-1 victory. Let’s hope it’s the latter, because I’d quite like to show up at my Dad’s for Christmas with bragging rights.
Eden Hazard came off the bench in Chelsea’s victory over Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup and was the ultimate difference maker with his goal in the 84th minute. In the league he’s got 8 goals and 9 assists, which accounts for over half of Chelsea’s 35 total goals scored. I think another worry for the Leicester defense will be Pedro coming in from the left and I hope Ben Chilwell will be healthy enough to play and keep him contained.
If I think Chelsea are volatile, wait until you read what I think about Leicester! I’m not sure Claude Puel knows what his best anything is yet. Injuries have forced some change in positions of the season, as they always do, but I’m struggling to remember a time where Claude had a consistent lineup he could field week by week. Last season they were starting to hit their stride, then came the January transfer window and the Riyad Mahrez drama went through the roof and the side never settled after that. The World Cup run has caused some rotation defensively, and the Jamie Vardy injury has been long ongoing. It looked as though we’d be okay with Kelechi Iheanacho’s preseason form, but that’s gone the wayside and may never return. It’s a toss-up who Claude will field on Saturday, but I think I may have an ideal solution.
There’s a certainty about how Leicester have been playing, and as certain you are as the sun will rise from the east, you’re certain a Leicester attack will involve a winger getting down to the side and whipping a cross in to nobody. It’s SO obvious Claude wants them to play with the ball at their feet, yet each attack goes to the win and crosses the ball. So what is there to do? Play a striker who is good with his feet and isn’t tall enough to whip a meaningless ball into, unless it’s good enough for him to bicycle kick it. Get the ball to Shinji Okazaki so he can hold it up and play it to the oncoming James Maddison, which will suck a defender in and mean he can spray a ball over the top to whomever is on the wing and maybe create a REAL goal scoring opportunity for a change.
I can’t see a scenario where Leicester grind out a win. They will either need to be explosive offensively and tear them apart, or get a late equalizer for a point. Losing away to Chelsea isn’t a bad thing, they are a very good team and still have many players from their title winning side, but I think all Foxes fans will agree that they need to show up and play for 90 minutes, not wait until the final 15 to try and make something happen