The monumentally frustrating 0-2 loss to Tottenham feels like a lifetime ago now, and with the hype and furore surrounding the win streak and the chance to beat Arsenal’s record now over, the Blues can focus on what they do best: winning football matches.
A home FA Cup tie with Peterborough was the perfect antidote for the White Hart Lane debacle, and gave Antonio Conte an opportunity to blood fringe players and our talented young guns, while giving those burdened by the extra workload over the festive period a much-needed rest.
The second-string certainly did not disappoint. Kurt Zouma looked assured at the back on his return from injury, while in midfield the youthful pairing of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah was full of running. Alongside them the majestic Cesc Fabregas purred in the middle of the pitch, spraying passes around like a quarterback.
Most pleasing was Chelsea’s attacking intent, with Willian and Pedro continuing their scrap for the inside right position by netting three goals between them; the fourth falling to the impressive Michy Batshuayi. Conte will have enjoyed his glass of wine after that 4-1 win.
Onto this week and Saturday’s tea time kick off against Leicester City. The champions are in a tough spot at the moment, and the absence of Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Daniel Amartey (all at the African Cup of Nations) is unlikely to help. They have only won two league games since the end of October, although their home record (W5 D3 L2) does stand up to scrutiny. Even with their absent trio, it will be a tough evening’s work for Chelsea.
Chelsea Team News
This section has been pretty easy to write all season to be honest, and this week is no different. Antonio Conte has an almost clean bill of health to work with: no injuries, no players lost to the African Nations Cup, and just one suspension: John Terry, who received his marching orders against Peterborough.
David Luiz and Marcos Alonso have missed a couple of days of training; the former with a knock to the knee, and the latter to help see off the ankle injury that has been pestering him of late. Nathan Ake has been recalled from his loan stint at Bournemouth to prove cover, but the likelihood is that both will be in the starting eleven at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
The impressive Cesc Fabregas is likely to miss out, while Conte has a choice to make between Willian and Pedro to play in that inside right channel. We suspect he will opt for the Brazilian, but the Spaniard certainly won’t let anybody down if selected.
Leicester City v Chelsea Head to Head
he recent history of these two teams has been dominated by Chelsea, and since October 2001 they have trousered ten wins in twelve starts.
The two anomalies came last season, with the Foxes claiming a 2-1 victory in the December 2015 clash. Mahrez was the difference-maker that day, and so it is a relief he will be absent here. And then the last game of the 2015/16 campaign ended in a 1-1 stalemate between the two sides.
How the Match Will Be Won
We expect this to be an old school Leicester performance; the kind of set-up that led them to the title last season. They will defend deep and get plenty of bodies in the ball, allowing Chelsea to have possession. Then they will spring forward quickly on the counter attack, with long balls into the channels for Jamie Vardy to chase.
That is good news for Chelsea. Firstly, both David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta boast adequate levels of pace to deal with the threat of Vardy. Without Mahrez and Slimani, the Leicester attacking unit looks rather one-dimensional.
The other tactical titbit worth acknowledging is that letting this Chelsea side dominate possession is a bad move. Such is the confidence of our attacking players that we will be able to fashion plenty of chances even with a blue wall in front of us, and while we expect Diego Costa to be well shackled by the no-nonsense pairing of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, that will leave the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian with little pockets of space to work with.
This will be a tight game; 90 minutes of footballing cat-and-mouse. But if either side is likely to make the breakthrough then it is Chelsea, and we expect them to win to nil here.