Leicester versus Chelsea is the pick of the weekend's four FA Cup ties. Michael Cox looks at the tactical battle and Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown.
"Both Christensen and Azpilicueta have been guilty of rare errors recently"
Leicester v Chelsea
Sunday 16:30, BBC One
Match Odds: Leicester [3.7], Chelsea [2.2], The Draw [3.8]
Central midfield the key battleground
These two sides have won the last three Premier League titles between them - and this is also an interesting battle between central midfield pairings.
The key man is N'Golo Kante, who proved the signing of the season two years in a row, taking both clubs to title victories in 2015/16 and 2016/17. Last season, meanwhile, Chelsea reunited the pairing of Kante and Danny Drinkwater, who has found himself out of the side recently but may be recalled here for this return to his former club.
Leicester, in fairness, haven't shown much sign of missing them recently. Wilfried Ndidi has proved a very fine replacement in the Kante role, while Vicente Iborra has also proved a solid capture, enjoying a superb game in last weekend's 4-1 win at West Brom, rounding off a fine display with a late goal. It should be Leicester Past versus Leicester Present in the central midfield zone.
Vardy in better form than Chelsea's forwards
It might be Leicester, however, who offer more going forward, as Chelsea are struggling upfront. Olivier Giroud isn't cup-tied and is free to start, but is unlikely to start a second consecutive game, having also played against Barcelona in midweek. This could be a game for Alvaro Morata, with Eden Hazard presumably continuing in the wide-left role he returned to against Barcelona. Willian will play on the right, and currently represents Chelsea's most dangerous attacking option.
Leicester, though offer a centre-forward in form. Jamie Vardy has a decent record against Chelsea and will play on the shoulder of the defence, making good runs into the channels to receive quick forward passes from midfield. Riyad Mahrez, meanwhile, will be given freedom from defensive responsibilities, and while this means Marcos Alonso will push forward and offer a goal threat, it also means the Algerian will be a real threat on the counter-attack.
Shinji Okazaki will probably get the nod as Vardy's closest support, though his role will be all about dropping into midfield in an attempt to help Ndidi and Iborra command the centre of the pitch. Left-sided Demarai Gray could drop out here, with Claude Puel summoning Marc Albrighton, who offers more defensive responsibility, and may help to track the runs of Victor Moses.
Chelsea's defence prone to errors
Neither side are likely to make many changes in defence. Leicester's backline is settled, with Ben Chilwell enjoying a good game at left-back last weekend, grabbing an assist, and Harry Maguire seemingly now a regular in the England squads in recognition of his fine form.
For Chelsea, there's a chance Antonio Conte will hand a recall to Gary Cahill, who has been frozen out recently - and isn't in the latest England squad - but Antonio Rudiger will be favourite to keep his place alongside Andreas Christensen as the spare man, and Cesar Azpilicueta to the right. Both Christensen and Azpilicueta have been guilty of rare errors recently, however, and neither will relish the prospect of facing Vardy.
Chelsea start as favourites, but I fancy Leicester here. On current form they seem equally organised in a defensive sense, I believe they can compete in midfield, Mahrez is a match for the threat of Hazard, and upfront Vardy looks in good shape too.
There's a question mark about Conte and Chelsea's level of motivation, and the defeat to Barcelona in midweek will have been demoralising, while Leicester are comfortable in the Premier League and can focus upon FA Cup glory. I'm backing Leicester to win at [3.7].
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
Chelsea have an excellent record in the FA Cup, losing only six of their last 60 FA Cup games. They have an equally good record against the hosts, winning 12 of their last 15 games against Leicester. But the Champions come into this on the back of just one win in their last five in all competitions and, having been dumped out of Europe in midweek, they need to pick themselves up quickly. This is now the only trophy Chelsea can win this season.
Claude Puel’s men have spent time in Marbella preparing for this weekend, with some warm weather training, and they have turned their season around after a poor start. They have managed to move themselves up the table to a more than respectable eighth position and their team spirit was in evidence last week, as they came from an early goal behind to put four past West Brom.
There are often goals when these two meet. It was 2-1 here in the league and their last nine meetings with Chelsea at home have all gone over 2.5 goals. The overs market is trading odds on, and I was hoping it would be the other way around. If there isn’t an early goal then I will be looking to get on overs at around [2.5] in running.
Chelsea are rightly favourites for the tie at [2.14] but I quite fancy Leicester to cause them problems. The hosts can be backed on the Asian Handicap +0 & +0.5 at [2.16] and I think that represents a bit of value.