Sunday, March 18 – 4:30p.m Local time – King Power Stadium, Leicester, United Kingdom
Beaten, broken, bruised; there are not enough adjectives to describe Chelsea’s torrid title defense campaign.
It’s become quite predictable now. Win the Premier League, hope to defend the title with the same team the following season, only for their title ambitions to come crushing down face first.
He may not like it, he is not supposed to like it, but surely Roman Abramovich has to start believing the rot is right within the inner circle of his executive board, rather than the management staff.
Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte both won the Premier League title with Chelsea in 2015 and 2017 respectively, and yet the reigning champions barely had a mention in each of the following seasons in their title defense.
The board has, by and large, been blamed for this worrying trend, as they have continually failed to strengthen title winning sides, whereas other title opponents spend meticulously to secure top drawer signings.
Antonio Conte may have long conceded the Premier League title to Manchester City, and with a top four finish becoming increasingly unlikely, the Italian maestro put all his eggs in the proverbial Champions League basket.
A 1-1 draw with Barcelona during the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 was a timely shot in the arm for the beleaguered champions, but Chelsea were soon handed a cold reality check during the return leg in Spain on Wednesday.
The Blues were undone by a moment of brilliance from Lionel Messi after just three minutes into the match, but it was the Ousmane Dembele strike in the 20th minute that knocked the wind out of whatever hopes they had left of making it to the quarter-finals of the elite European cup competition.
In the end, the lavishly talented Argentine rounded up a chastening night for the visitors with his second goal midway through the second half, as Barcelona ran out 3-0 winners.
The Chelsea boss, who reluctantly admitted that Messi’s mere presence in the game was an event itself, took it on the chin as their grip on a place in the Champions League next season weakened significantly.
Clinching the FA Cup may not provide an alternative route to the Champions League, but the Chelsea supporters, as well as the hierarchy, will not expect anything less.
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The Blues have a chance to dish out some punishment of their own when they travel to the King Power stadium this weekend to face Leicester City in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
Leicester aren’t exactly in prime form and are certainly not as compelling to watch as they were when they, against all odds, won the Premier League title in 2016, but they can be devastating on the break.
As such, the Foxes will be bidding to inflict Chelsea with a fourth defeat in five games across all competitions, as they advance their own ambitions of securing silverware.
Claude Puel’s side has been struggling to grind out wins at home- recently drawing 1-1 with Stoke City and Bournemouth- but their near-perfect performance last weekend that saw them emphatically win 4-1 at the Hawthorns, will be something to take into the decisive FA Cup tie.
Save for the injured Daniel Amartey who has been ruled out with a thigh strain, Claude Puel has a clean bill of health in what may very well be his biggest game of the season.
Spirits are high in the Leicester camp after the squad spent four days of warm weather training in the resort City of Marbella, and will unquestionably be fresher and fitter than Chelsea.
Squad rotation will therefore be integral, which is why players who never had a part in the midweek European encounter could push for a start for Chelsea; that being Danny Drinkwater, Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta, Alvaro Morata and the ilk.
Conte will however be without the duo of David Luiz and Ross Barkley, who remain sidelined with an ankle and hamstring injury respectively.
Leicester City vs. Chelsea match predictions
The Foxes have, on time without number, proven their resilient and unplayable nature on home turf, while the heat will certainly be on Antonio Conte who risks being handed his p45 should he fail to make it to the last four of the FA Cup.
At this point of the competition, both sides will be eager to win it yet too cautious to lose it.
Prediction: Both teams to score – -151.52 on William Hill
Leicester City vs. Chelsea recent results
Chelsea 0-0 Leicester (January 13, 2018) – EPL
Leicester 1-2 Chelsea (September 9, 2017) – EPL
Jamie Vardy 62′ (P)
Alvaro Morata 41′
N’Golo Kante 50′
Leicester 0-3 Chelsea (January 14, 2017) – EPL
Marcos Alonso 6′
Marcos Alonso 51′
Chelsea 3-0 Leicester (October 15, 2016) – EPL
Diego Costa 7′
Eden Hazard 33′
Victor Moses 80′
Leicester 2-4 Chelsea (September 20, 2016) – EFL Cup
Shinji Okazaki 17′
Shinji Okazaki 34′
Gay Cahill 45’+2
Cesar Azpilicueta 49′
Cesc Fabregas 92′
Cesc Fabregas 94′