With the transfer window officially closing today, Chelsea can now finally come back to focusing on the more pressing matters at hand and is no longer necessitated to deal with the daily shenanigans of ‘Silly Season’, a title it has once again been very much deserving of. The task ahead is clear and the same as it has been from the start; namely, securing Champions League football for the upcoming season and thereby allowing the club to occupy a much more comfortable bargaining position in what hopes to be a very busy summer.
The Blues’ next game in the Premier League will see them take on one of the more surprising and prolific names of this campaign as they travel to Leicester City in this weekend’s early kick-off. Finding themselves merely 3 points behind second placed Manchester City (!), Brendan Rodgers and his men really have turned into genuine contenders for those coveted spots in the top four and Frank Lampard will have his work well and truly cut out. Thankfully, Leicester have themselves been struggling with consistency for some time now as three wins in eight games doesn’t exactly scream in-form.
Regardless, Chelsea will have to be very wary of their opponent’s many strengths and need to be on top of their game if they want to stand a chance of bringing all three points back to Stamford Bridge. Jamie Vardy in particular has been deadly in front of goal this season, his tally amounting to an impressive 17 goals and 4 assists, thereby contributing largely to Leicester’s success thus far. As Chelsea fans, we will know all too well that the 33-year old can pose a real threat at all times and will quickly punish any mistakes made by defenders.
So this should be fun.
The Team News
While the start of January saw nearly all Chelsea’s players return to fitness after a slight injury crisis, the last couple of weeks however have seen several important figures once again be forced to watch from the sidelines, with Reece James and Tammy Abraham being the two most recent players to pick up knocks.
As it stands after Frank Lampard’s press conference today, there are no new injuries and, having said that, updates on possible returnees were at the time of writing non-existent. Questions on a potential Pulisic return or whether or not Reece James is in contention to start were therefore absent, much to my personal frustration.
Despite Tammy being confirmed to have returned to training, it seems like a risk to throw him into the mix again so soon as he clearly appears to not have entirely recovered from his injury just yet. As said, there was no news on James’s fitness as the promising defender was said to have been somewhat healthy again shortly after the Newcastle game, yet hasn’t featured since. One can only hope he’s had enough time to recover properly and is fit to take on Leicester.
The feeling persists that Frank Lampard is still not entirely certain who belongs in his strongest starting eleven and rotation in both personnel and formations (also due to injury, mind) have been a common sight for quite some time now.
The choice of centre-backs has dominated many discussions this year and has consequently seen Lampard start almost every possible combination at the back, the exception being this author’s favoured pairing of Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori. The difficult task of taking on a side such as Leicester City will most likely not make this decision any easier.
Despite a brief period of going with three men at the back, that experiment seems to have been shelved again rather quickly. As such, I’m fairly confident in saying that Lampard will either make use of a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation (though, in reality, the two do not really differ too much in our current system).
Otherwise, the predicted eleven to start against Leicester City reads as follows:
Kepa | Azpilicueta – Rüdiger – Christensen – James| Jorginho – Kanté – Kovačić | Hudson-Odoi – Abraham – Willian
It goes without saying that this fixture really does need to be won if we intend to stay in the top four for the long run, especially considering Chelsea’s tough run of games over the next few weeks. Relying on the failures of our rivals will only work so long and Frank Lampard will be well aware of that, hopefully getting a reaction from his players after the last two results in the league were more than disappointing.
I believe that victory once again depends entirely on which Chelsea team decides to turn up at the King Power Stadium tomorrow as inconsistency has been one of the few consistencies of this season. Will we get to see the Chelsea team which played so emphatically away to Spurs and so clinically at the Emirates not too long ago, or will this season’s major issues of wasted opportunities, defensive lapses, and brief spells of dominance followed by total collapse show their ugly faces yet again?
There’s no way of knowing an answer to this question for sure and only time will ultimately tell. For now, all that counts is keeping faith in our beloved Chelsea and Frank Lampard’s ability to surprise us. Come on, Chelsea!
Written by Jimmy Funnell (@JimmyFunnellCFC).