Imagine an EPL fan who has just awakened from a coma and who decides to look at the preview of this Monday night’s match-up.
- Table-topper vs a team hovering just above the relegation zone .
- An in-form team vs one that’s struggling big time.
- Defending champions vs a team that finished 14th last season.
- Teams involved – Chelsea & Leicester City.
In any other season, the above statements would barely get a look at, much less a second one. But the shocker of a season that the current one is, this hypothetical fan could very well go into another coma, due to a shock (if that’s medically possible !), when he / she gets to know that the roles have been reversed.
Who would’ve thought that just prior to the holiday mêlée of December, Leicester City would be sitting atop the table, a good 17 points above Chelsea (status prior to this weekend’s matches). Nobody would have imagined that the Top 4 leading scorers list would comprise players from Leicester City, Watford & Everton , with 2 of them, including the top scorer belonging to Leicester City and none from Chelsea even making the Top 25 scorers list!!
An even more shocking statistic would be that Chelsea have a Goal Difference of -7, with 24 goals let in and 57 shots on goal from inside the penalty area, highest in the league (source : BBC). I would imagine that more than the afore-mentioned role reversal, this stat would be the one that would actually send someone into a coma (medical T&C applied). I mean, this is the Chelsea of “park the bus” fame that we are talking about, with the canny operator, Mourinho still at the helm. Alas, it is reality that we need to face and however painful it may be to acknowledge it, it says that Chelsea, on current form, would need to play out of their skins to simply not lose against Leicester City, much less win against them.
Positives for Chelsea :-
- Chelsea’s form in the last 5 matches across all competitions reads as WWDLW.
- Return of Thibaut Courtois. Despite Begovic’s able deputisation, there is solid reason to believe that Courtois’ presence would give a much-needed fillip to our backline.
- Improved backline – Except for that blip against Bournemouth, we’ve seen a steady performance from our boys, including clean sheets in the other 4 matches.
- Our head-to-head record against Leicester, which includes wins in the last 8 matches against them and no defeat since 2001, when, ironically, Claudio Ranieri (Leicester’s current manager) was the manager of Chelsea.
- An average of 2 goals per match has been scored by Chelsea in those 8 wins.
- Leicester city have let in 21 goals (vs the 24 that Chelsea has let in). If only our boys take advantage of a not so solid Leicester City backline.
Negatives for Chelsea :-
- Our indifferent form this season, with the recent EPL form record reading as LLWDL – not a very encouraging sign.
- Leicester City’s high-flying form, with Jamie Vardy & Riyad Mahrez on song and among the Top 4 scorers of this season.
- Despite being current table-toppers, Leicester City have over-achieved in every sense and have nothing to lose here. And Chelsea have everything to lose.
- Chelsea’s striker struggles have come back to haunt us this season and let’s face it, scoring goals win you matches and we’re barely scoring at just above 1 goal per match, whereas Leicester City have scored at a rate of just above 2 per match.
- Constantly evolving targets, from the initial talks of title defense to now “dreaming” of making the top-4 along with talks of a below Top 10 finish in the background (by cynics & haters), can prove to be unsettling.
Having said all the above, I do believe that Chelsea has shown signs of turning the corner. That includes Costa’s form as well, especially with his apology for the bib-throwing incident killing rumours of any rift with Mourinho and being a positive sign overall.
For this game, Chelsea would need to tackle the pace of the likes of Vardy & Mahrez, which means we might see Zouma play today (who knows, maybe even Kennedy). The rest of the line-up should be along predictable lines.
A quick glance above shows that we have more positives than negatives (6 vs 5) and although it isn’t much to brag about, it is all that we have now. More than tactics, it is some hope, optimism and fearless attitude that will bring about a turnaround.
We fans, though, as always, are behind our team and manager. Come hell or high water.