Preview : Chelsea FC vs Leicester City

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.

Will Lionel be the Messi-ah?

LIONEL ANDRES MESSI . This is the one name doing the rounds in almost every football discussion these days. Not a surprise, considering that the Holy Grail of Football- the WC 2010 to be held in South Africa, is right here at our doorsteps.

As is usual with every WC, the fans are on the lookout for the one man who will stamp his authority on this edition of the WC. But never in recent memory have we seen one man’s name being chanted with such a crescendo and this not by just the fans but by most players, coaches and former greats as well. Such has been the magical effect that this diminutive footballer has woven around people. His style, speed and skills have left no one in doubt as to what he is capable of doing with a football. The way he has changed the nature of many a matches for Barcelona (his current club), is proof enough!

But will he be able to live up to the expectations of a demanding sports loving nation like Argentina? The pressure of the fans, his peers, all of whom are expecting nothing less than a repeat of Mexico 1986, when another diminutive Argentine named Diego Maradona had single handedly brought glory to his country. And fortunately or unfortunately, it is the same Maradona who is Argentina’s coach now. Maradona, who himself has regularly been in the eye of the storm for a variety of reasons, has also gone to the extent of anointing Messi as his successor.

Argentina coach Diego Maradona, right, blows a whistle as he stands next to forward Lionel Messi during a training session on Wednesday. (Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images). Picture courtesy: http://www.cbc.ca.

With such huge burden on his young shoulders, it remains to be seen whether Messi will be able to cope with all this attention and still go on to achieve the ultimate prize in world football. But some people might be hoping for the contrary to happen, especially considering Maradona’s veiled threat to run naked around Buenos Aires’s city centre if they win the cup !!! Whether or not Messi can emulate his idol (hope it is limited to lifting the WC only :D), but millions of people across the world will surely be praying that he indeed turns out to be their Messiah.