Surprise league-leaders Leicester City will be desperate to maintain their position atop the Premier League table with a good result at home to the beleaguered reigning champions Chelsea (8pm Monday, live on Sky Sports).
Given that Leicester finished 14th in the Premier League last season it would have seemed far-fetched at the start of the campaign to suggest that 15 matches into the new season the positions would be reversed, with Leicester leading the table and Chelsea down in 14th. Yet that is exactly that situation ahead of this fixture.
Leicester come into the match on the back of six wins and two draws in their last eight league matches and having lost just once this season. The free-scoring Foxes are the league’s top scorers, having notched two or more goals in 11 of their 15 fixtures to date. Home or away, each week they continue to create chances and score.
Claudio Ranieri (pictured) has built upon the open and attacking style of play that saw Leicester recover from a poor start last season to secure safety with a strong run of results under previous coach Nigel Pearson. While Ranieri’s side do leave themselves a little open at the back, their attacking potency has so far made up for it.
Jamie Vardy, who set a new Premier League record with a 11-match scoring streak that came to an end last weekend, has been the primary beneficiary of the Foxes’ expansive approach, although the form of Riyad Mahrez has been equally, if not more, impressive. Mahrez scored all three goals in last weekend’s 3-0 win away to Swansea and has provided a goal or assist for every 70-odd minutes he’s been on the pitch so far this season.
The question hanging over Leicester is whether they will be able to maintain their current form over the remaining 60 percent of the season. They can be found at as long as 9/2 just to finish in the top four, which suggests that the bookies remain dubious. Home matches against Chelsea and Manchester City and visits to Everton and Liverpool before the year is out will give a better indication of their credentials.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will need a run of results better than that which Leicester have put together to date if they are to have any chance of hauling themselves up from their current sorry position into a top-four berth by the end of the campaign. Even if they are to equal the lowest points total (67) achieved by a top-four finisher over the last 10 years, they would still need to average 2.26 points per match between now and the end of the season.
While there have been some vague signs of improvement in recent weeks, most recently in their clean and professional 2-0 victory over Porto in midweek that saw them progress to the last 16 of the Champions League, that seems a tough task for a side who have already lost eight times in the league this season and have averaged just one point per match.
Jose Mourinho’s side had the best defensive record in the Premier League last season and have at least started to regain some of that solidity in recent weeks, keeping clean sheets in four of their last five matches in all competitions. Yet with Diego Costa misfiring and Eden Hazard out of form, goals continue to be a problem. The Blues have scored just twice in their last five league outings.
Mourinho will be very aware of the threat posed by the pace and power of the Leicester attack and is likely to adopt a cautious approach in order to avoid exposing his defence. Chelsea were successful in doing just that in their 0-0 draw away to Tottenham Hotspur late last month. Leicester were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United that same weekend and a similar match and result can be expected here.