The two most recent champions of England will face each other in what promises to be an exciting game of football this Saturday. Leicester have managed to turn things around after a patchy start and Claude Puel’s impact has been the primary reason for that. The Foxes are back in the top half of the table and are pushing for a Europa League spot.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are going through a shaky start as they dropped points against Arsenal before playing out a goalless draw with them in the Carabao Cup. They even drew against Norwich City and will have to play a replay of the FA Cup third round clash on the 18th of this month.
The only positive for the Blues has been the signing of long-term target Ross Barkley for a relatively low price considering the inflated market. With Antonio Conte continuously crying out for not being supported by the club in the market, as well as his feud with Jose Mourinho, Chelsea have had numerous distractions in 2018.
Against the Foxes, Conte would be in search of the first win of the year and let us see the important player duels that can have an influence on this game:
- Riyad Mahrez vs Marcos Alonso
The Algerian has scored seven times and has assisted on eight other occasions to help Leicester rise up the table.
His pace has hurt teams on the right flank and he has combined well with the likes of Demarai Gray and Jamie Vardy to make Leicester more potent up front. Mahrez will be competing against Marcos Alonso.
The highest scoring defender in Europe has won over the hearts at Stamford Bridge with his scintillating performances of late. Alonso likes to make forward forays into the opposition half, can send in a deadly cross into the box and has a striker’s instinct in front of the goal. Having said that, he can’t afford to focus too much on going forward as Mahrez is pretty quick.
- Wilfred Ndidi vs N’Golo Kanté
The Leicester boo boys will be up against Kanté when the pocket-sized dynamite turns up for Chelsea. However, more importantly, Conte and Kanté will be focussed on figuring out what has been going wrong with the midfield machine this season.
The PFA Player of the Year has failed to show up in some of the important occasions this season. Kanté has let forwards get past him with ease and has mistimed his tackles quite a few times. Though the quality of the player is never in doubt, and it is almost inevitable that he will slowly get his form back, the current situation is just not good enough for him.
On the other side, Wilfred Ndidi has garnered the reputation of being one of the best defensive midfielders in the league currently. Ndidi has been an unmovable force in the middle of the park, has read the game well, can put in a clean and tackle and drives the team forward with his tirelessly running. Oh wait, are we talking about a certain lad named N’Golo Kanté?
No, Wilfred Ndidi is truly special and we must start accepting that.
- Jamie Vardy vs Andreas Christensen
Seamless transitions are a signature of top clubs and Chelsea is certainly one of them. Ever since David Luiz fell out with Antonio Conte, Andreas Christensen has pounced on the opportunity to stake his claim of being the team’s first choice centre-back.
The Dane has been consistent and has maintained the defensive solidity on which his predecessors prided themselves. So far, Christensen has probably been the best youngster that Chelsea have groomed or loaned out and has come back to serve the club dutifully.
His intelligence inside the box and excellent awareness of the opposition forwards have been factors behind his resurgence for the Blues. However, Jamie Vardy does like challenges and this certainly is one.
With the burst of pace Vardy possesses, he can be a nightmare for even the best of defenders. It’ll be a battle between Vardy’s prolificacy in front of the goal against Christensen’s intelligence and positional awareness in his own half.
Intriguing, isn’t it?