Image Source: The Daily Star
We now know for sure that Chelsea have just two more competitive games to go this season. Between those two games, the club fly over to Boston for a game against New England Revolution in a game combating antisemitism and promoting equality and tolerance. Clearly, it was arranged with the expectation of not reaching a European final.
Sunday sees the culmination of Maurizio Sarri’s first and possibly only season in the Premier League with a trip to Leicester City. Since the arrival of ex-Chelsea coach Brendan Rodgers, City have seen a dramatic upturn in their fortunes. Having already secured a Champions League qualification, the Blues only need to match Tottenham’s result to secure third place.
The fight for the top four has almost become a race to see who can’t make it. The four clubs looking most likely to achieve it have all struggled to assert any kind of authority in their attempts to get there. Almost by default Chelsea have qualified. It’s difficult to say they are better than any of the other teams although, the table doesn’t lie.
Europa League aside, coming into Sunday’s game Chelsea arrive off the back of a 3-0 win at home to Watford. After an inspired second half and the failure of Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United to get a decent result Champions League qualification was grabbed with a game to go. Leicester, on the other hand nearly influenced this season’s title destination, running Manchester City close in a 1-0 defeat.
Recent form in all competitions
Chelsea – D/D/D/W/D
Leicester City – W/L/D/W/L
Chelsea will be without N’golo Kante (hamstring), Antonio Rudiger (knee), Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles), Ethan Ampadu (back) and long term omission Marco van Ginkel (knee). Andreas Christensen picked up a knock against Frankfurt but could be available.
Leicester have few injuries or issues and only have Daniel Amartey unavailable for selection.
Leicester’s Predicted Starting XI (4-1-4-1) Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Ndidi, Albrighton, Tielemans, Choudhury, Maddison, Barnes
Chelsea’s Predicted Starting XI (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga was outstanding in the win over Frankfurt. Not only did he make crucial saves during the game but the two stops during the penalty shootout won the game for Chelsea. As his first season with the club draws to a close he can be well satisfied with all he’s achieved.
Defence – Chelsea’s defence has not been at its best this season. Cesar Azpilicueta though has been the one constant throughout and whilst he has come in for some criticism, he is only one man. He has the right attitude and following Andreas Christensen’s injury in the Europa League, moved into the centre of defence. For me, the Dane is too lightweight for the Premier League but that’s another story.
Gary Cahill has apparently already left the building as far as Sarri is concerned so ‘Dave’ may well have to reprise the central role alongside the newly re-signed David Luiz. Davide Zappacosta has not seen enough game time under Sarri and does show positive signs when given a chance. Marcos Alonso and Emerson have once again taken on their respective roles in the Premier League and the Europa Cup.
Midfield – There’s definitely a decent footballer inside the body of Jorginho. His first season has been hampered by collateral damage from his association with the manager and his infamous methodology. With injuries building and a European final coming up, rest and recuperation may be the order of the day but Sarri will want to get third place if at all possible. Ross Barkley injected some impetus when he replaced Ruben Loftus-Cheek against Frankfurt and is not afraid to shoot-on-site. Mateo Kovacic is not everyone’s idea of a replacement for N’golo Kante but his combative spirit may be required against Foxes.
Attack – Chelsea’s newly crowned Player of the Year, Eden Hazard may well be making his final EPL appearance for the club he joined back in 2012. During those seven years, the Belgian has been outstanding. Should he go – and he’s still teasing on that – he’ll be sorely missed. Chelsea will carry on though, the club are more than one player. Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year at last night’s awards ceremony is the future. As he recovers from a knee operation Pedro remains Chelsea’s best-attacking option other than Hazard. Like Alonso and Emerson, Gonzalo Higuain and Olivier Giroud rotate between the competitions in which Chelsea remain. The former will be making what could be his final appearance on Sunday afternoon.
Arrizabalaga, Zappacosta, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Alonso, Jorgingo, Kovacic, Barkley, Hazard, Pedro, Higuain
Matchday score prediction and odds
Given its the final game of the season, and players heads may be elsewhere, the final day of the season games are tricky to predict. Given that Sarri will want to get the third place I think Chelsea may run out winners in a tight 1-0 win.
Sky Bet make Leicester slight favourites going into the game at odds of 11/8, Chelsea are 7/4, with the draw less likely at 13/5.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000