I suspect not many of us were around when we beat Leicester City 3-2 to secure the league cup in 1965. Even I cannot boast to have any recollection of this triumph. At the time it was a cup competition which not all teams entered. The final was two legged with a 3-2 victory at home followed by a solid 0-0 at Filbert Street. The first bit of silverware for Docherty’s Diamonds, surely to be followed by lots more, well in true Chelsea style that era was brought to a premature end.
We’ve played them twice more in this competition. Winning a penalty shout out in the 1983/4 season. We also beat them on our way to Wembley with Avram Grant in 2008 but we won’t dwell on that! For those interested the team that night was;
Cudicini, Belletti, Alex, Ben-Haim (Essien 80), Ferreira (Malouda 52), Wright-Phillips, Sidwell, Lampard, Sinclair (Kalou 78), Shevchenko, Pizarro
So a cup game against the Champions. It’s difficult to know whether they will rest players but I think with the Champions league also a commitment, the tinker man will indeed tinker. Having spoken to a Leicester supporting friend he thinks not but I would be surprised if they risk some of their more precious assets but I am expecting their defence to remain the same with perhaps their talented youngster Ben Chilwell getting a look in. New signing Slimani announced his arrival on Saturday and I would expect him to play with maybe Vardy on the bench. We also may see the talented Demarai Gray whose pace will undoubtedly test our defence.
Our last two visits to the King Power could not have been starker in the post-game emotions. In 2015 we all but clinched the title. A joyous night that not many of us will forget. A dreadful first half turned round by blowing away Leicester in the second half. Contrast that with an evening barely 6 months later which was Jose’s last in charge. Another abject no show from the players. The fallout from Hazard’s injury and Jose’s emotional post-game interview when he knew the cardboard box was ready for him to clear out his desk. Leicester were on a roll and we were heading in the opposite direction something which could not have been predicted at the statrt of the season
There is no great rivalry between the clubs. Our respective swapping of divisions over the years meant that nothing major built up between the clubs until an FA Cup tie at the Bridge in 1997 settled in our favour in the 119th minute. Most of the players who have worn both shirts, that I can think of, have all been liked by both sets of fans from Birchenall and Weller for the older fans and Frank Sinclair for less old fans. They recently took Mark Schwatzer from us and we all like him!
We have also shared a manager, their current boss. What they as a club did last season was fantastic if nothing else it stopped someone other than us winning the league. I do not however get the love for their manager from some of our fans. Yes he was treated badly but no less than Carlo who actually won things for us.
More interesting for us will be our line up. After the massively depressing showing against Liverpool, Conte has a chance to make things right against Leicester. Unfortunately for him in my opinion this is only 1 of 2 competitions we have a chance of winning and so perhaps some of the changes he was contemplating may not now happen.
He will start with Begovich in goal and hopefully Azpi at right back and Alonso at left back. I would have liked to have seen Aina but suspect two “new” fullbacks will not happen. I think Luiz will partner Cahill in the centre. I am hoping Alonso does well, after Friday night I think Branna needs a long rest. It is not nice to witness the decline of a great servant to the club and hopefully central defence is still a position he can cover but his days as a full back on the evidence of last season and this are drawing to a close.
Midfield is tricky. Both RLC and Chalobah need game time but I suspect only one may appear. I also think Cesc will get a run out in in perhaps a dress rehearsal for Saturday. I thought that Matic was unfairly slaughtered by fans after Friday night. For me he was nowhere near as bad as some others but I suspect he along with Oscar may be rested.
I think that Moses and or Pedro will get game time but I am convinced by neither. There has been a lot of love for Victor this season and he certainly has put his back in to it so he deserves to start. Undoubtedly Batshuayi will start. His non appearance on Friday is still a mystery. I can only surmise he wasn’t fully fit and was only on the bench in the event of an injury to our one other fit striker. There isn’t a logical explanation otherwise
So in summary I think we will play the following team:
Begovich – Azpi-Cahill – Luiz – Alonso – Cesc – Kante – RLC – Moses – Pedro – Batshuayi with both Costa and Hazard on the bench.
It’s seems ridiculous to say this after so few games but this is a huge game for us going forward especially with a visit to North London on Saturday. We all knew that we weren’t playing brilliantly at the start of the season but team spirit and bold substitutions were producing a feelgood factor which was slightly dampened by Swansea and virtually extinguished on Friday.
Enjoy the game and win or lose it up the blues.
Author of “Palpable Discord. A Year of drama and dissent at Chelsea” Published by Gate 17
Podder and blogger for The Chelsea Fancast