The Big Match Tactical View: Leicester v Chelsea

Can Claudio Ranieri inflict more misery on his former side?
Can Claudio Ranieri inflict more misery on his former side?
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Monday's Premier League game is Leicester, joint-top, against last season's champions Chelsea. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, while Alan Thompson provides the betting expertise...


"Vardy will work the space between the left-back and the left-sided centre-back - particularly if the latter is the increasingly immobile John Terry"

Leicester v Chelsea
Monday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1


Match Odds: Leicester 3.211/5, Chelsea 2.427/5, The Draw 3.613/5.


It still seems utterly incredible that this round of Premier League fixtures started with Leicester at the top of the table - with Chelsea struggling badly in the bottom half. Leicester needed a great escape to avoid relegation last season while Chelsea were champions, and the turnaround for both clubs has been quite remarkable.

It's also a meeting between Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho, who engaged in running battles through the press when Ranieri's Roma were pipped to the Serie A title by Mourinho's Chelsea in 2009/10. Mourinho has been complimentary about Ranieri in the press this week, however, and is hardly in a position to be criticising his opposite number at the moment anyway.

On current form, Leicester show little sign of slowing down - although their upcoming fixture list is somewhat daunting. Last weekend's 3-0 victory over Swansea showed they can win even without Jamie Vardy finding the net, and his scoreless game might actually prove to be useful, as he'd clearly become somewhat preoccupied with his record, shooting from somewhat ambitious situations.

That said, Vardy showed selflessness to tee up Riyad Mahrez for his hat-trick goal at the Liberty Stadium, and those two will clearly be the Foxes' main goalscoring threats here. Vardy thrives by collecting the ball on the run in the channels on the counter-attack, and thus far opponents show no sign of blunting Leicester's favoured attacking approach by sitting deep and denying them such space.

The Chelsea of last season would have been well-organised and intelligent enough to minimise space in the channels, but Mourinho has stressed the importance of Chelsea going for victories to drag themselves up the league table.

Therefore his full-back choices have been reasonably ambitious - it's worth considering whether he'll use the attack-minded Baba Rahman or the more cautious Cesar Azpilicueta on the left. Vardy will love working the space between the left-back and the left-sided centre-back - particularly if the latter is the increasingly immobile John Terry. With Mahrez likely to start on that flank too, this is the key area of the pitch.

In theory Nemanja Matic should help protect them, but he's been in poor form recently and has found opponents rushing past him quickly on the break. N'Golo Kante will be Leicester's most dynamic midfielder and is capable of outbattling Matic - he's been their most underrrated performer so far this season.

Cesc Fabregas has been in disastrous form and it would be a surprise if he returned to the side here. A fit-again Ramires is the better option alongside Matic - the Brazilian is a limited player, but his energy is crucial in a Chelsea side that has looked alarmingly sluggish this season.

Diego Costa will probably retain his place upfront and engage in running battles with Leicester's physical but somewhat limited centre-back duo of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan. Pedro Rodriguez and Eden Hazard should attack from wide zones and attempt to get forward in advance of Costa, although neither are in good goalscoring form.

Willian has been Chelsea's best performer this season and is likely to start as a number ten, but he isn't exactly a commanding playmaker and will depend on quick service from the midfield, where he can run with the ball. Are Matic and Ramires good enough to play the right passes?

This game will probably be mainly about countering, with neither side particularly keen on taking a lead role. An early goal and things could open out into an exciting end-to-end festival of attacking, and it's worth remembering both sides have a leaky defence this season, but the game might take a while to get going.


The Betfair Traders View - Alan Thompson

Chelsea visit Leicester City on Monday evening and are 17 points behind the league leaders. The Foxes have only lost once so far this season at home to Arsenal (2-5) and have only kept one clean sheet at the King Power Stadium, when they defeated Crystal Palace 1-0. The Blues have won once on their travels this season at West Brom where they ran out 3-2 winners and their only clean sheet on the road was at White Hart Lane in a 0-0 draw.

Last season Chelsea boasted the best away record in the league only conceding 23 goals on their way to losing just three games and winning 11. This season already they have conceded 13 from their seven away days and are without a win in their last five. A good midweek 2-0 victory over Porto seen them progress to the knock-out stages as group winners in the Champions League but there are no signs as yet that they can bring that form to the Premier League.

Leicester City have been nothing short of sensational this calendar year, after starting 2015 with four straight losses leaving them rooted to the foot of the Premier league with 17 points, they have lost just four of their next 28 Premier League games and their four defeats have been against (Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal). They are about to start a very difficult four-game festive sequence to see out 2015, after Chelsea they have to go to Everton, Liverpool and then they face Man City at home.

Leicester are not top of the league by accident and unless Chelsea bring their “A” game here they could be in for a torrid time. The Foxes have though lost their last six meetings with Chelsea and conceded 16 goals in the process. I will be splitting my stake backing Over 3.5 Goals before the game @ 3.613/5 and placing a “keep” bet on Over 2.5 Goals to get matched in running should it reach 2.35/4, and I can’t resist having a flutter on 2-2 in the Correct Score market @ 16.015/1.

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