It’s a Stamford Bridge double to bring the curtain down on 2021/22. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton focus on the Foxes’ visit…
On the 10th anniversary of a great night in Chelsea’s history – the 19 May 2012 Champions League triumph in Munich – the European champions and visitors Leicester match up in the penultimate Premier League fixture for the second successive season.
With Arsenal slipping to defeat at Newcastle on Monday, the Blues confirmed entry to Europe’s elite competition for the 19th time without kicking a ball. However, despite the ongoing change of ownership, the Stamford Bridge crowd will still sadly be limited by government licence.
Also like last season, this meeting comes just days after Chelsea played an FA Cup final. A year ago, the Blues gained some revenge on Leicester by taking all three points, though it took their final day collapse against Spurs for Tuchel’s men (who lost at Villa) to sneak into fourth place.
A win or draw against the east midlanders tonight would secure third place ahead of Sunday’s Premier League finale, when Thomas Tuchel’s side entertain relegated Watford. Coincidentally our final two league opponents played each other on Sunday, Leicester running out 5-1 winners at Vicarage Road.
For a third season running, disappointment in the FA Cup could easily have a downbeat effect, despite the players giving their all against shoot-out winners Liverpool. It will help hugely if the home support delivers fervent backing against the revived Foxes, whose coach Brendan Rodgers has won one of the 14 top-flight tussles against his former employers, losing the past two.
This fixture was held over from 27 February as a result of Chelsea reaching the Carabao Cup final, and the reverse fixture in November ended in a convincing 3-0 victory for the Blues with Toni Rudiger, N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic on the scoresheet.
Chelsea team news
While hamstring injuries for Kai Havertz and Timo Werner may restrict Thomas Tuchel’s solutions upfront this evening, Romelu Lukaku has scored five times in 11 appearances against Leicester.The Belgian striker (as well as Mateo Kovacic) was ruled out of the reverse fixture in Leicester, which also proved to be Foxes old boy Ben Chilwell’s last league outing. The Londoners dominated for most of the 3-0 victory, capped with a stunning finish from N’Golo Kante – the second on his old stomping ground since moving south.
Although the Arsenal result removed pressure from the Blues, Thomas Tuchel is not settling for Champions League qualification – he is demanding a top-three finish as the happy ending to a two-trophy campaign. The Blues have not finished a match week lower than third since the first month of the season.
Saturday’s strenuous 120 minutes, a record sixth extra-time in what will be a 63-game season, has to be factored in, despite two days’ rest for the players and coaches. The Bavarian has said injuries and those planning a future elsewhere will also inform his thinking, but he will reward the best-performing players in training with the minutes they deserve.
Ben Chilwell has reconnected with the senior group but is not considered ready, and Mateo Kovacic’s swollen ankle is still being assessed. Andreas Christensen, who withdrew from the squad on the day of the cup final, may not figure again for the Londoners.
On Saturday, Thiago Silva became the oldest outfielder to start an FA Cup final since Blackpool’s Stanley Matthews in 1953 at 37 years and 234 days, but may not be rested this evening.
Mason Mount has scored and assisted in six different Premier League games this season, something no previous Chelsea player has managed. A rare seventh would put him on a par with fellow England men Alan Shearer (1994/95) and Harry Kane (2020/21). The Londoners are currently two shy of a century of league goals since the arrival of ‘Super Tommy’.
Foxes finishing well
Although Leicester’s chances of European nights for a fourth season running have gone, Brendan Rodgers urged his team to clinch a top-half finish despite facing ‘the best team we’ve played this season’.
The Foxes flipped back to ninth with emphatic wins over relegated Norwich and Watford, but the loftiest they can finish is eighth; they have ranged between there and 14th all season. With eight goals scored in the past two games, their players have clearly not donned their espadrilles just yet.
Prior to clipping the Canaries’ wings and swatting the Hornets, the Foxes, who suffered Europa League disappointment a fortnight ago, had played seven in all competitions without a win, losing their last three.
The sudden return to form coincided with a slew of important returns from injury such as Harvey Barnes, Wesley Fofana, James Justin, James Maddison and Jamie Vardy. This season, 35-year-old Vardy has started just 40 per cent of matches. He is still their leading scorer (16 on all fronts) alongside Maddison.
Wilfried Ndidi is ruled out so Papy Mendy (namesake and international team-mate of Chelsea’s goalie) has been prowling their midfield, and although he was ill on Sunday he could return tonight. It is an area of the field Rodgers always aims to dominate, but he has suffered further blows with the unavailability of their 2021 cup final hero, Youri Tielemans, and Hamza Choudhury, plus right-back Ricardo Pereira.
Mendy is likely to be part of the midfield three alongside Maddison and Barnes who, along with the near ever-present Tielemans, have weighed in with plenty of assists in the past few outings.
In contrast clean sheets have been rare this season. Only Norwich, Leeds and Watford have managed fewer, and just six top-flight clubs have let in more goals overall. Most notoriously Rodgers’ men have the worst record in the league for conceding from corners, with 16. He rested Kasper Schmeichel last time out but confirmed the Dane will return between the sticks this evening, while Jonny Evans is expected to be ready despite fatigue at the weekend.
It is now a sad fact that Chelsea have lost four of our last five men’s FA Cup finals, including an unwanted record of three on the trot and, overall, have failed to score in the last 415 minutes of domestic showpieces.
It will be hard to find the mettle to finish the season successfully but with two crucial league matches to play, we must. Yet the Blues have had league fixtures to fulfil after a cup final plenty of times in the past. In fact, it has been the case following five of our 15 FA Cup finals going back to the very first in 1915. Even last season, tonight’s visitors, who had edged Chelsea to silverware at Wembley, were beaten 2-1 four days later at the Bridge.
Seventh for Europe
Chelsea’s 18-better goal difference over Spurs almost certainly means one point from the final two games will deliver a third-placed finish, with Champions League entry already confirmed.
The Blues and Liverpool contesting the FA Cup final and securing top-four finishes means the Europa League invitation handed to the Wembley winners will pass down the table.
The same goes for the Reds’ qualification for the Europa Conference competition as League Cup winners. No additional Champions League place would be created were the Merseysiders to win the Champions League. Instead the club finishing sixth would join the Europa League, with the seventh-placed team entering UEFA’s third competition.
London is Blue (x4)
Tottenham’s 3-0 thrashing of 10-man Arsenal brought London derby fixtures to a close for the season, with Chelsea the cream of the capital crop for the fourth season running.
Women win at Wembley
While the men fell agonisingly short, Chelsea Women secured a second successive league and cup, clinching the FA Cup for the second time in six months.
That means the last trophy of the Roman Abramovich era was won, fittingly, by Emma Hayes’s side, which has enjoyed such support from the club in the past decade. It is the 13th piece of silverware since Hayes’ arrival in 2012.
Premier League fixtures
ThursdayEverton v Crystal Palace 7.45pmAston Villa v Burnley 8pm (Sky Sports)Chelsea v Leicester 8pm