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The Foxes have a good record against the Premier League’s big boys and Chelsea remains inconsistent.
Back Leicester to win (+210)
|Leicester City vs Chelsea Information|
|What||Leicester City vs Chelsea|
|Where||The King Power Stadium, Leicester, England|
|When||Tuesday, 19 January 2021, 3.15 PM EST|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
Chelsea spent more than any other Premier League team in last summer’s transfer market, but whether they got bang for their buck remains open to debate. Chelsea has underperformed relative to most people’s expectations in the first half of the season, and Saturday’s 1-0 defeat of Fulham was not sufficient to assuage the doubts about Frank Lampard’s side.
Leicester, by contrast, will be delighted with how they have performed so far this campaign. Just two points adrift of the top spot heading into the midweek round of fixtures, they will move to the summit of the standings with a victory here. With their counter-attacking prowess and excellent record in the big games, Leicester is great value at +210. Do not pass up the opportunity to back them.
Leicester’s Premier League title triumph of 2015/16 was arguably the greatest shock in the history of soccer. Having narrowly avoided relegation the previous campaign, Leicester upset odds of + 500000 to beat the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Liverpool to the trophy. It would not be such a huge shock were they to finish on top of the pile again this term, but Leicester is clearly among the underdogs to win the title. Yet, as the Premier League season nears the midway point, the Foxes are certainly part of the conversation.
That is not to say there have not been slip-ups this term, particularly at the King Power Stadium. The Foxes have been almost flawless on their travels, collecting 23 points from a possible 28, but they have lost at home to West Ham, Aston Villa, Fulham, and Everton. They scored only one goal in those four matches and struggled to break down well-organized defenses. When playing against Leicester, the best game plan usually revolves around sitting deep and breaking forward at speed.
To their credit, Leicester has become better equipped to deal with such challenges, and they remain one of the best counter-attacking teams around. Manchester City, Arsenal, and Tottenham have all suffered defeat by the Foxes this term. In those three matches, Leicester averaged 38.5 percent possession compared to 62.25 percent in the four home defeats mentioned above. The Foxes are not as reliant on the counter-attack as they once were, but fast breaks remain the most dangerous weapon in their armory – and they could be particularly potent here.
Mason Mount’s strike earned Chelsea all three points against Fulham at the weekend. It was a vital win for the Blues but an unconvincing one too. Their opponents spent the entire second half with one man fewer following Antonee Robinson’s red card, and Mount’s goal did not arrive until the 78th minute. The result was always going to be more important than the performance given Chelsea’s recent run, but this was not the type of game to win over those who are yet to be won over by this team.
Indeed, Chelsea has won only two of their last seven Premier League matches, and just three of their last nine. They are eight points behind the leaders and five adrift of fourth place; the latter gap is not the biggest but the main concern is that Lampard does not seem to be any closer to finding the right formula. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, last summer’s most expensive purchases, were left out of the starting XI against Fulham. Even so, Lampard hinted after the game that his team selection was still not correct, with Callum Hudson-Odoi unfortunate to be left out.
Whereas Leicester are well balanced between attack and defense, Chelsea still look too top-heavy. Thiago Silva has performed well since his arrival from Paris Saint-Germain, but the problem is one of structure more than personnel. At times it is far too easy for opponents to cut through the heart of Chelsea, and Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy have the speed and quality to punish the Blues if they are afforded too much space on Tuesday.
Rodgers was once the Premier League’s most dogmatic coach, a possession fundamentalist who always wanted his team to dominate the ball. He has adapted since his time at Swansea City, though, and he is a better manager for it. Rodgers now feels comfortable enough to instruct his teams to play on the break, and adopting that approach would be sensible against Chelsea.
Leicester will not simply sit back and wait for their opponents to take the initiative. In Youri Tielemans and James Maddison, the hosts have two excellent technicians who like to have plenty of touches of the ball. But at the same time, Rodgers will no doubt emphasize Chelsea’s vulnerability when it comes to defending against rapid transitions. And if Leicester gets the first goal, expect them to sit deeper and draw the visitors onto them, just as they did in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Southampton.
Leicester’s second-half performance in that game was a masterclass in counter-attacking soccer. Conceding first would be a blow to their hopes of victory on Tuesday, and Lampard may well seek a fast start from his side in a bid to knock Leicester’s game plan off course. Yet there are still too many doubts surrounding this Chelsea team, and the fact they have not recorded back-to-back league wins since November makes odds of +125 on an away victory look much too short. The value here is with Leicester.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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