Chelsea-Leicester City Preview
There is little time for Leicester City to wallow over their Carabao Cup exit as they host Chelsea on Saturday in a top-four clash crucial to their Champions League aspirations.
The Foxes (15-3-6) were on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline Tuesday in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal at Aston Villa, resulting in a 3-2 aggregate defeat. Kelechi Iheanacho gave Leicester City a lifeline with an equaliser both in match and goal total on 72 minutes, but the bid for their first chance at a trophy since winning the Premier League in 2016 went by the wayside after conceding a stoppage-time winner to the Villans.
"It's not the result we wanted," centre back Jonny Evans told LCFC TV. "The performance was good at times, I thought especially in the first half, we were disappointed to come in at half-time 1-0 down. We showed great composure to get back in game and we felt comfortable. They've got one chance at the end and, to be fair, he's put in a really good ball, and they've scored a good goal."
The glut of games may have finally caught up to Leicester City, who did progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday with a slender 1-0 victory at Brentford City on Iheanacho's goal in the fourth minute. The Nigeria international has eight goals in all competitions, but his goal-scoring prowess in cup play has not always carried over to league action - Iheanacho's last Premier League goal came against West Ham United on Jan. 28.
Despite Tuesday's defeat, Brendan Rodgers' side are still tipped for a top-four finish. They are not only eight points clear of Chelsea for third in the table, they are a whopping 14 better than Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton - who are all on 34 points and occupy the fifth through seventh spots.
"When you're within touching distance of a final, then it's something that will drive you on," Rodgers said. "The players will be disappointed tonight, it'll hurt in the morning, but they'll recover. Then we've got a fantastic game at the weekend. They'll have a good break, come back, and then get ready for the final part of the season."
Striker Jamie Vardy, who leads the Premier League with 17 goals, should be relatively well-rested for this match as Rodgers left him off the 18 for the FA Cup match and used him as a second-half substitute versus Aston Villa. Vardy has 36 goals in 60 matches against Big Six sides, but scoring against Chelsea has proven difficult with only four goals in 11 meetings.
Chelsea (12-4-8) are six points clear of the trio of pursuers and also advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 triumph at Hull City on Saturday. Michy Batshuayi and Fikayo Tomori scored on either side of halftime for the Pensioners, who survived a late push from the Championship side after conceding a deflected free kick.
"I feel like a broken record," first-year Chelsea boss Frank Lampard told The Times. "I keep saying the same, we have the lion's share of possession and 15 to 20 shots but we are not making that count in terms of goals and firm, firm results."
Chelsea's lack of a true centre-forward beyond Tammy Abraham continues to be a concern, perhaps more so with veteran Olivier Giroud looking to move elsewhere to secure playing time ahead of representing World Cup champion France in the European Championship this summer.
The 33-year-old Giroud, who has played just six matches across all competitions and last played Nov. 30, has been linked to a move across north London to Tottenham ahead of Friday's deadline, with the Spurs in need of a striker with Harry Kane a long-term injury absence.
While Giroud is on the outside looking in, wing Christian Pulisic may be available for this match. He has been sidelined since Jan. 3 with an adductor injury, and both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Willian have struggled at times filling the role of the American international.
The teams shared the points in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge, with Wilfred Ndidi's goal in the 67th minute for Leicester City canceling out an early goal by Mason Mount. Chelsea are unbeaten in the last four league meetings (1-3-0) and are 7-1-1 in their last nine visits to King Power Stadium in all competitions.
Updated January 30, 2020