Foxes vs. Lions in survival of the fittest

Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Chelsea have won back-to-back games (in all competitions) for the first time since early December, when a 3-1 win over Leeds United started some hushed, yet earnest, and also very premature, title talks. How quickly things can change!

But Chelsea’s two wins have come against a fourth division side and a team in the Premier League relegation zone, so it would be just as premature to proclaim that we’ve turned the corner, especially as the overall quality of the performances were lacking in many respects.

And so we come to this game, against a very good and even title-challenging Leicester City side. Another litmus test for Lampard’s Chelsea. We’ve not done very well at all in those types of tests. But we can start changing that narrative today. Some might say that we must.

Date / Time: Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 20.15 GMT; 3:15pm EST; 1:45am IST (next day)
Venue: King Power Stadium, Leicester, England
Referee: Craig Pawson (on pitch); Andre Marriner (VAR) — are there any good Premier League referees?
Forecast: Rainy, windy, England-y

On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCSN (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)

Leicester City team news: People love to joke about Brendan “The Brodge” Rodgers, but the former Chelsea youth and reserves coach has the Foxes purring (do foxes purr?) and just two points behind current leaders Manchester United. (Manchester City are also two points off the pace, and with a match-in-hand as well.) With a season as unpredictable and convoluted as this, a repeat of 2015-16 certainly shouldn’t be out of the question.

That’s not to say that Leicester are unbeatable. Four of their five losses have come at home, including to Fulham before Fulham were actually somewhat decent. But they have won 7 of 10 in all competitions are riding a five-match unbeaten run in the league (3 wins, 2 draws) — the sort of consistent form that just might emerge on top amid all the surrounding strangeness and randomness.

Evergreen Jamie Vardy, recently turned 34 but still pouring in the goals (11 in the league at last count, two behind pace-setter Mo Salah), picked up a knock towards the end of the weekend’s 2-0 win over Southampton, but he should be fit to feature. Same can’t be said for Dennis Praet, who’s set to miss the next few months with a major hamstring problem, and Nampalys Mendy, who’s questionable with a neck injury.

Chelsea team news: Chelsea only have one injury, but it’s a big one, with former Leicester City man N’Golo Kanté remaining out with his latest small-turning-not-so-small hamstring injury. Age catches up to all of us, NG. Another former Leicester man, Ben Chilwell comes back for the first time.

Prior to Saturday’s win at Fulham, Chelsea had the third worst form in the Premier League. That win wasn’t pretty, but three points are three points and the confidence boost can be even a bigger benefit going forward. But we have to follow that up, as tough as it might be. It may be unfair to expect this win, but that’s the hole that we’ve dug for ourselves.

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The other big question, other than Lampard’s future should we fail to win, is whether Callum Hudson-Odoi will finally get a Premier League start, which would be just his third all season. It’s what everyone wants to see, at least as long as he performs … because of course the mob is fickle.

Previously: Chelsea have won twice at the King Power in recent years in the FA Cup, but in the league, we have to go back to September 2017 to find a victory. We’ve not won any of the our Premier League meetings since, drawing four of the five including the last three.