Having detached a little bit from the leading pack, Chelsea have a pretty forgiving holiday period in waiting, with none of their next four league games set to be against any team higher than tenth in the Premier League. They kick off their festive fixtures against a Leicester City side that is increasingly tough to fathom – the Foxes have gone from “consistently inconsistent” through “hard to beat”, and are now in a phase of scrappy losses.
With this fixture in mind, visiting manager Claude Puel fielded a weakened side in the midweek League Cup tie against Manchester City, which Leicester lost on penalties. With one of two realistic shots at silverware gone, they’ll need to pick up at least a point at Stamford Bridge for the gambit to have been worthwhile. However, with Chelsea having recently brushed off Manchester City here in the League, it’s hard to see anything other than a home win.
Chelsea vs Leicester Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Leicester
Given Chelsea’s position in the top four – a status which eluded them last season – it’s fair to say the reign of Mauricio Sarri has been at least a moderate success thus far. However, Chelsea fans have been less than glowing about the performances on show, with points dropped against Everton, West Ham and other opponents which, had they been gathered, would have them right in the title race. They do, however, have Eden Hazard in their side, and he frequently transforms pedestrian performances into winning displays. Unless they find top form here, Leicester do not have the firepower to match their opponents.
Our recommended tip: BTTS
In keeping with the way Napoli played last season under Sarri, Chelsea are capable of beautiful attacking play when they get going, but they lack the ruthlessness that has seen Liverpool and Manchester City detach themselves at the top as the season nears its halfway mark. As such, we can see the visitors’ excellent individual attackers finding the net on this trip to London. Unfortunately for the travelling supporters, we would expect it to be in a losing cause; their habit of conceding cheap goals is likely to haunt them and Dafabet’s 21/20 odds on Both Teams To Score looks well worth a punt.
These sides have met with surprising regularity over the last few seasons – Leicester’s 2-1 win in the 2015/16 campaign feels like yesterday in many ways, but the clubs have met seven times since, with the Foxes not picking up a single win in that time. Two cup meetings at the King Power have gone to extra time, with Chelsea winning both, while the last Stamford Bridge encounter, last January, was filled with frustrating missed opportunities for City to take all three points from an off-colour Blues.
The last meeting, in the FA Cup, saw Chelsea win 2-1 – former City midfielder NGolo Kante crossing for Pedro to head the winner in the 105th minute at a snowy King Power Stadium.
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Players to watch: Eden Hazard & Harry Maguire
The constant speculation over Hazard’s future raises a key concern for Chelsea fans. He is, by some margin, their best player – and easily one of the best in the Premier League. The issue with having a star capable of winning games on his own is that, too often, he has to do precisely that. If Hazard doesn’t function, neither do Chelsea. If Real Madrid finally succeed in prising the Belgian from the Kings Road, the Blues will struggle for creativity – but they might finally find some balance in their side.
One could look at Maguire’s recent absence through injury, see that Leicester came through it mostly unbeaten, and question whether the side missed him – particularly as he was in the starting line-up for last weekend’s loss at Crystal Palace. The truth is that the former Hull man – subject of many January window transfer rumours – is an indispensable part of the Foxes’ backline. His battle with Alvaro Morata could define this game, and a leader’s showing from Maguire could help Leicester to a point or more.