Those who follow Chelsea over land and sea (and Leicester) will go into this FA Cup Quarter Final in great spirits following the euphoric European comeback win against Napoli in midweek. Roberto Di Matteo has a 100% record as manager with three consecutive wins, and the team looks to be revitalised going in to the business end of the season. So next up on the charge for cup glory is a home fixture against our old foes, Leicester City. We have had some memorable clashes with the Foxes, one in particular having particular FA Cup relevance …
Chelsea 1-0 Leicester City (After Extra Time), Stamford Bridge, 26th February 1997
A 117th-minute Frank Leboeuf penalty sealed a 1-0 win to send Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea through to the FA Cup Quarter Final. This hard-fought marathon victory was the last game of the cup run that was played at Stamford Bridge, as further victories against Portsmouth at Fratton Park, Wimbledon in the semi-final at Highbury, and Middlesbrough in the Wembley final brought the trophy to SW6.
Chelsea 2-2 Leicester City, Stamford Bridge, 17th April, 1999
With Chelsea locked in a three-way battle with Arsenal and Manchester United for the Premier League crown, a win in this game was essential as the run-in and pressure for points intensified. With the Blues leading 2-1, Steve Guppy earned himself villain status in West London by curling a superb right-footed shot beyond Ed De Goey and into the Shed End net, effectively killing off Chelsea’s title hopes that season.
Leicester City 2-3 Chelsea, Filbert Street, 1st February, 2002
Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea took on a Foxes side rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, but found themselves lucky to come away with the spoils as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink hit a last-minute winner. Dave Bassett’s team gave the Blues a difficult time and James Scowcroft twice put his side in front, but equalisers from Hasselbaink and then Zola set the stage for the Dutch hit man to steal the show late on.
Leicester City 0-4 Chelsea, Walkers Stadium, 11th January, 2004
An under-fire Chelsea team steamrolled the Foxes on their own patch in this league game, again inspired by Hasselbaink. The Blues number nine showed his range by netting with a deft flick for his first goal, then firing in a twenty-yard free kick for his second. Flash-in-the-pan Adrian Mutu bagged the third before a rare strike from Celestine Babayaro completed the scoring.
Chelsea 4-3 Leicester City, Stamford Bridge, Wednesday 31st October, 2007
With Stamford Bridge looking for a morale-boost following the departure of Jose Mourinho the month prior to this game, Avram Grant and the players will no doubt have been hoping and expecting a routine win against Championship Leicester to take the club through to the last eight of the Carling Cup. But ‘routine’ it most certainly was not, as despite a Frank Lampard brace, the team were 3-2 down right up until three minutes from time, when Andrei Shevchenko levelled. An injury-time Lampard header earned the midfielder his third and his club a spot in the Quarter Final.
Chelsea vs Leicester City, Stamford Bridge, 18th March 2012
The mood among the supporters is jubilant after the simply brilliant performance in eliminating Napoli from the Champions League in the face of such adversity, and hopefully the entire club will get a lift from what was one of the all-time classic European triumphs.
Leicester at home is a very different prospect to that of a continental glamour-tie, however. With many of the big guns (not the ‘old guard’, as many of the media have now decided to nickname the senior players) just having completed 120 minutes of the most intense football you are ever likely to see, and the fact that we are up against weaker opposition, it is fair to expect quite a degree of rotation.
The likes of Torres, Kalou, Malouda, Mikel, Meireles, Cahill, Bosingwa, and Bertrand may be in line to feature, just as many of them did at St Andrew’s against Birmingham in the previous round.
Whatever the team Robbie Di Matteo sends out, let’s hope that the impeccable start he has made to the job can continue with progression to the FA Cup Semi Final. Suddenly, it feels very good to be a Chelsea supporter again, and given the recent change of fortunes there has been a lot said and written about how Abramovich’s decision in firing AVB has been justified.
That’s the obvious conclusion to draw, but all I can say is that, in stark contrast to a fortnight ago, fourth place in the league and possibly a trophy in the cabinet at the end of the season doesn’t seem quite so impossible now, does it?