In our latest feature looking back at a previous meeting between the sides ahead of the latest fixture, we revisit a late 90s trip to the East Midlands...
When Gianluca Vialli’s multinational all-stars arrived at Filbert Street in November 1998, Chelsea had won only once at the ground over the previous 20 years. It was equally inhospitable in the stands, leading to violent flare-ups that would dominate David Mellor’s 6-0-6 phone-in later that day.
The Blues arrived unbeaten in 16 matches but were pinned back for long periods by the Foxes’ energy and power. Ed de Goey was called upon for a string of brilliant saves, including from sizeable central defender Matt Elliott, playing as a makeshift striker in the absence of Emile Heskey and Tony Cottee.
This was a continental selection without a soft centre, though. The squad was peppered with players capable of producing quality at the drop of a hat, and a mix-up between Kasey Keller and Steve Walsh allowed Gianfranco Zola to bundle the ball over the line – not his finest finish.
Ten minutes later Gus Poyet’s goal looked to have established a 2-0 lead for the visitors at the break, but straight away Muzzy Izzet, who had departed the Bridge a few years earlier, finished from Elliott’s lay-off.
After half-time it was once again Zola who stepped up, his smart free-kick striking the inside of the post, creating chaos in the Foxes’ box. Tore Andre Flo tapped in to reestablish the two-goal advantage, but Steve Guppy – who was to achieve notoriety among Blues fans with a last-gasp leveller at the Bridge the following April – curled in a second for the hosts.
It was all hands to the pumps as Leicester pressed, and they were denied by the outstretched boot of De Goey and an acrobatic goal-line salvage effort from Frank Leboeuf. Instead, Zola capped a hugely influential performance with a fine breakaway finish in the dying moments.
The 4-2 win kept Chelsea fourth, with player-manager Gianluca Vialli admitting, ‘in some games we can show our skills, in others we have to fight for everything. Today we had to fight very hard against a team who never gave up.’