Pre-match briefing: Chelsea v Leicester City - part two
news Sat 4 Jan 2014
It’s match day and completing their preview of the visit from Leicester, club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look at the past and at today’s game…
WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea are seeking a seventh successive win against the Foxes in all competitions (a fifth on the spin in the league) in our first top-flight meeting at Stamford Bridge for 11 years. They have visited the Fulham Road in the FA Cup and League Cup in the meantime.
Arguably the most memorable visit by Leicester City to these parts was on 26 February 1997 during Chelsea’s triumphant FA Cup run. The game was a replay, the Foxes having recovered from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 at Filbert Street 10 days earlier.
Ruud Gullit’s stellar team again struggled to dismiss the Midlanders’ challenge with goalkeeper Kasey Keller in excellent form. It was not till the last minutes of extra time that the breakthrough came. Substitute Erland Johnson, a defensive-minded centre-back, suddenly surged into the box and tumbled between the challenges of Matt Elliott and Spencer Prior.
Mike Reed had no hesitation in whistling for the penalty, prompting a vociferous protest from Foxes boss Martin O’Neill that seemed to last years. To no avail: France World Cup-winner Frank Leboeuf, so reliable from 12 yards, fired the Blues into the quarter-finals.
Chelsea eventually beat Middlesbrough in the final. (Present Foxes manager Nigel Pearson was in both the Boro sides that lost to the Blues in 1997 and the League Cup final a year later.)
In October 2001, a Foxes side under Dave Bassett came to the Fulham Road with Dennis Wise in their ranks, the former Blues skipper warmly welcomed back and presented with a gift of thanks for his trophy-laden service.
From then on the niceties ended and a midfield featuring Emmanuel Petit outshone Wise and co. in front of 40,070 spectators. It was the impish Gianfranco Zola and the burgeoning strikeforce of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen, though, that quickly did the damage against the bottom-placed side.
Inside 20 minutes referee Jeff Winter awarded a penalty when Gudjohnsen was brought down by Gary Rowett after controlling Zola’s astute long pass. Ian Walker managed a touch on Hasselbaink’s spanked spot-kick but could not keep the ball out.
On the stroke of half-time Gudjohnsen doubled the lead from another Zola pass with some deceptive footwork and a decisive low drive from the edge of the box. The game finished 2-0 and was, surprisingly, our first home victory of the season under Claudio Ranieri. Video highlights are below.
Seven years earlier, in a 4-0 rout for Glenn Hoddle’s men, diminutive John Spencer netted one of the quickest ever Chelsea goals with a header after just 17 seconds. The Scot was in fine form and might easily have hit a hat-trick. Instead he had to settle for two goals and an assist for Gavin Peacock before hobbling off with a hamstring injury – sadly a far from rare occurrence. His replacement, Neil Shipperley, completed the scoring.
Robbie Savage was in the Leicester side that last won at Stamford Bridge, in September 2000 in the Premier League. They achieved the double against us that season by winning 2-1 at Filbert Street in the February. That was the Foxes’ only league win at Stamford Bridge in 23 attempts since October 1965.
Chelsea v Leicester in all competitions
Games played 102
Chelsea wins 49
Leicester wins 24
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 45
Chelsea wins 31
Leicester wins 4
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team
Chelsea 4-0 Leicester 1924/25, 1957/58, 1994/95
Chelsea 1-3 Leicester 1960/61, 1961/62
Addressing last season’s deficiencies was Jose Mourinho’s summer task and, on first showing at Turf Moor, it is an improved efficiency, control and game intelligence that will be the result.
All three goals at Burnley were hit from within eight yards, a sign that the Clarets’ rearguard had been taken apart. Other defences will not be so accommodating, including that of fellow newcomers, Leicester.
The arrival of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas should alleviate more of the burden from Eden Hazard, the creative lightning rod who most took the ball to opponents last season and was the league’s most fouled player as a result.
Although deployed ostensibly in a much deeper role than the inside forward or ‘false no.9’ one Barcelona had for him, Fabregas had his hands on the metronome all night and was still able to venture forward regularly. As a result he had an important hand in all three goals.
The 27-year-old commented afterwards that his teammates had made his return to the Premier League easy, and that reflects the understanding evident with deep-lying partner Nemanja Matic and Oscar, who seamlessly dovetailed into the centre when the no.10 went on the attack. Ramires returns from suspension this weekend to add to the manager’s options, as he weighs up post-World Cup fitness and the need to give new arrivals the right start.
Striker Costa’s star billing looks well-earned on his limited showings to date. At Turf Moor he saw a lot of the ball with his back to goal and used it cleverly and with purpose. His movement is smart and instinctive and he occupied two defenders at a time, shielding and distributing the ball with his back to goal. He also handled a poor refereeing decision very well.
Goals from a dead-ball opportunity was another aspect in which Chelsea lagged behind title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool last term. With five six-foot-plus men in flight formation and Fabregas arrowing the ball, Chelsea’s set-play threat this season was neatly displayed at Turf Moor. Averaging 6ft 2in, Costa, Matic, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic will be a formidable presence bearing down on goal.
Leicester twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Everton at home on Saturday, Kiwi poacher Chris Wood’s point-clinching goal in the 86th minute giving an indication of their spirit and determination.
City’s centre-back pairing of Liam Moore and Wes Morgan kept the Toffees’ former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku on the periphery, but defensive midfielder Danny Drinkwater, arguably the visitors’ most influential figure and the 2013/14 Championship Player of the Year, may well miss Saturday’s match with a hamstring injury.
Also likely to miss out is another central midfielder, Matty James, but Wales international Andy King is likely to keep his place and manager Nigel Pearson hopes to have Jamie Vardy and former Villa winger Marc Albrighton, now 24, available again.
It remains to be seen whether central defender Matthew Upson (pictured below), last seen at the Bridge with Stoke City, can make his debut for his latest team alongside the brave and solid Morgan. The Foxes’ goalkeeper is Kasper Schmeichel, the PFA’s Championship Goalkeeper of 2013/14.
Other familiar faces among the Foxes include marksman David Nugent, once of Preston and Portsmouth, and combative 33-year-old left-back Paul Konchesky, a veteran of Charlton, Spurs and Liverpool, among other clubs. (Thankfully pesky James Scowcroft, who managed four goals in five against the Blues in the past, is retired.)
Like Chelsea’s Diego Costa, Nugent’s strike partner Leonardo Ulloa, an £8m summer signing from Brighton, scored on his debut, reacting quickly to stab in from a few yards out. He also netted in his first game for the Seagulls in January last year – against Arsenal in the FA Cup.
Manager Pearson likes his side to fight for and retain possession in the opposition’s half – these are not the long ball Foxes of the Martin O’Neill days. The former Boro defender will also be aware that fielding his usual 4-4-2 risks being overrun in midfield and may opt for Ulloa alone up top.
For a 4-5-1 set-up to create the usual plethora of chances, Pearson will rely on his pacy wingers Albrighton, Riyad Mahrez and Antony Knockaert to join the attack as well as carry out their defensive duties. The flanks could be crucial in determining the outcome, but Chelsea will hope superior power and prowess through the middle will prove a quick and humane way to dispatch the Foxes.