Defending champions Leicester City will play host to current Premier League leaders Chelsea at the King Power Stadium this weekend (5.30pm Saturday, BT Sport 1).
Chelsea’s last top-tier clash came at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham Hotspur ended their 13-game winning run with a 2-0 victory in an absorbing London derby. Despite that disappointment, Antonio Conte’s charges remain in an excellent position at the summit of the standings and are still a shade of odds-on in the EPL title betting. Five points is the gap currently separating them from second-placed Liverpool, while the Blues now have an eight-point cushion in the Champions League qualification spots.
Chelsea will be aiming to get back on track in the East Midlands on Saturday, although it is important that they remain patient against a Leicester outfit who can be tough to break down on their day.
The Foxes have had a frustrating season so far, although the four points they took from recent Premier League meetings with West Ham United and Middlesbrough have eased their relegation worries a little. Leicester are certainly not out of trouble yet – Claudio Ranieri’s (pictured) charges are still only six points clear of the drop zone after 20 games – but the club’s supporters will be breathing a little more easily after some of their recent results. They will understandably start as underdogs against Chelsea, but Leicester’s counter-attacking threat means the west Londoners should not take anything for granted.
Club captain John Terry is suspended and will miss out on a place in the visitors’ matchday squad, although the former England international would not have started the game anyway. The Blues have no other selection concerns, which is likely to lead to Conte sticking with the line-up he has employed for much of the campaign up to now.
The former Juventus and Italy manager will also keep faith with the 3-4-3 formation that has brought his team so much success despite the setback against Tottenham prior to Saturday’s FA Cup third round victory over Peterborough United. Diego Costa is set to be flanked by Pedro Rodriguez and Eden Hazard at the top of the pitch. Cesc Fabregas is likely to start on the substitutes’ bench as Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante continue their partnership in the middle of the park, while Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill are the three leading options at centre-half.
Leicester are waiting on Jamie Vardy and Andy King, who have both been suffering from a bout of illness but are hoping to be available for selection. Daniel Amartey (Ghana) and Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez (both Algeria) are currently representing their respective countries at the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Ranieri has tinkered with his team and formation in the last few weeks. The veteran Italian manager opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation in the triumph over West Ham on New Year’s Eve, before moving to a 4-4-2 diamond in the goalless draw with Middlesbrough and a 4-3-3 in the Foxes’ FA Cup third round success over Everton at the weekend. He could return to his favoured flat 4-4-2 when the table-toppers come to town on Saturday evening.
Our Preview’s Leicester v Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
It is difficult to look past a Chelsea triumph in this clash, although things will not be easy for Conte’s charges at the home of the defending champions. The Blues recorded three consecutive 1-0 wins over West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Crystal Palace last month and may look to grind out another narrow victory in their next top-flight encounter this weekend.
With that in mind, then, the best option for these two teams’ meeting at the King Power Stadium could be an away victory with under 2.5 goals scored in total, while Hazard could be an intelligent choice in the anytime goalscorer market. So these are the betting tips this preview goes for: