Leicester City visit Stamford Bridge for the first time in the Premier league since 2003 for our first home match of the season on Saturday. That previous league encounter was coincidently also our opening home match of the season. An Adrian Mutu goal on his debut helped us to a 2-1 win that day. The reverse fixture that season was a slightly more convincing 0-4 victory for us.
We have faced Leicester twice since that season, both matches at Stamford Bridge. The first of these was a League cup fourth round thriller in 07/08 on route to our appearance in the final that season, which won’t be mentioned. 2-1 up, to 2-3 down, a late Shevchenko equaliser looked like sending the match to extra time, until an even later Frank Lampard goal won it, completing his hat-trick.
The other meeting was in the in the FA Cup quarter final 2012, another seven goal affair, this time a 5-2 Chelsea win. Gary Cahill notching his first Chelsea goal in this match.
There is indeed a long history of classic encounters between the foxes, and us although most of these have been in Cup encounters rather than league, they warrant mentioning, as some are Chelsea folklore. Beating Leicester in a Cup run has usually been a good omen for Chelsea, the 2012 quarter final already mentioned, preceded by wins over them in 2000 & 1997 all leading to us lifting the FA Cup at Wembley.
The 1997 5th round encounter is of particular legend. A 2-2 draw at Filbert Street meant a replay at Stamford Bridge. Leicester, then under the management of Martin O’Neill were becoming a renowned cup team, much as ourselves around this time. An extremely tightly fought match was 0-0 after the regulation 90, and looked like it could be heading all the way to penalties, until Erland Johnsen, on as an extras time sub for Dan Petrescu, cemented his cult hero status by surging into the box and being brought down, or so Referee Mike Reed thought. Many had begun to believe after the fourth round come back from two down against Liverpool that this could be the season for Chelsea to finally win the Cup for the first time since 1970, and when Reed pointed to the spot, it seemed to be a sure sign that we were on our way to Wembley. As Brian Scovell wrote in the book ‘Chelsea Azzurri’, “Reed was about the only person present who thought it was a penalty!” We went on to lift the trophy; Leicester would win the league cup the following season.
Our first league cup win came in a two-legged final in 1965. A 3-2 Stamford Bridge triumph thanks to goals from Tambling, a Venables penalty and what has been quoted as “one of the best Chelsea goals you probably haven’t seen” from Eddie McCreadie. McCreadie ran from box to box, beating numerous opponents before slotting home, but as no video footage exists, only those present have had the pleasure of witnessing it. Chelsea held on for a 0-0 in the return at Filbert Street to lift the trophy.
Notable league encounters include both home and away fixtures in 98-99, a season when we only lost three times, and finished four points of the top in third saw us win 2-4 at Filbert Street. The home fixture came late in April, sandwiched between cup winners cup semi final matches against Real Mallorca in our defence of the trophy, and after a 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough, realistically we had to win to stay in with a chance of winning the title. We led 2-1 before a gut wrenching late Dubbery og cost us two points, and while the title fight mathematically lasted until the 2-2 draw at Tottenham notable for the Bjarne Goldbaek cracker, it realistically ended with here.
Another memorable 2-2 draw occurred at Filbert Street the following season, although we came away a little more pleased with this one. Our first match of the season had seen us thump Sunderland 4-0 at the Bridge, Poyet’s scissor volley and all that. The second league fixture looked to be heading for a 2-1 defeat to the foxes, until deep into stoppage time Chelsea hero Frank Sinclair, now playing for Leicester turned the ball past his own keeper to do his old team mates a huge favour and give us a point to take home. He also contrived to find his own net the following week when Leicester travelled to Arsenal.
So there have been some memorable matches between the two sides over the years, lets hope our fixture on Saturday can be added to the list for all the right reasons. After the excellent performance in our opening match at Burnley optimism is high, more of the same would be highly appreciated by the Stamford Bridge faithful.
Kick off is at the now extremely rare and sought after time of 3pm, so make the most of it. See you at the Bridge.