Leicester v Chelsea: Foxes favoured in crunch clash
The layers quite understandably are struggling to separate Leicester and Chelsea in Saturday's showdown but Mark O'Haire is keen to keep the Foxes onside at the KP
Leicester v Chelsea Saturday February 1, 12:30 BT Sport
Leicester suffer surprise League Cup loss
Leicester suffered last-minute heartache on Tuesday night as the Foxes failed to progress to the League Cup final following a dramatic semi-final second leg at Villa Park. With the tie locked on aggregate at 2-2, four minutes of stoppage time and penalties were looming when Aston Villa scored the decisive winner to clinch their place at Wembley in March.
Chances of a comeback were minimal in the dying seconds and Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers will reflect on this night and feel fate was against the Foxes. Villa were indebted to goalkeeper Orjan Nyland for a string of magnificent first-half saves, whilst Jonny Evans' header dropped agonisingly wide, moments before the hosts made their last chance count.
This has been an outstanding season for Leicester as they look destined for the top four in the Premier League and a return to the Champions League, but this will still be a bitter disappointment for Rodgers, and his players, who lay flat on the turf on the final whistle. The Foxes will at least expect to see star striker Jamie Vardy back in the starting XI on Saturday.
Chelsea secure FA Cup progress
Michy Batshuayi and Fikayo Tomori scored in either half as Chelsea beat Championship side Hull to reach the FA Cup 5th Round last weekend. The Blues took an early lead when a deflected Batshuayi strike wrong-footed the home goalkeeper and Frank Lampard's troops doubled their advantage from a free-kick after the hour mark, before a Tigers consolation.
Chelsea dominated after scoring the opening goal, forcing a number of fine saves before letting their foot off the gas in the second period. Even so, Pedro twice fluffed opportunities to extend the Blues lead following the second goal, allowing the hosts to set up a tense finale when a wicked deflected free-kick left stand-in keeper Willy Cabalero beaten.
With Tammy Abraham out injured, plus Olivier Giroud apparently close to leaving Stamford Bridge before the transfer window closes, Batshuayi is again expected to lead the Blues attack this weekend despite a largely quiet display. Elsewhere, Christian Pulisic remains on the treatment table but Rhys James could be back in contention at right-back for Lampard.
Foxes undervalued at the KP?
Leicester are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games against Chelsea, although three of those fixtures ended in draws 3.75. However, the Foxes have suffered defeat in five of their past seven home league outings against the Londoners (W1-D1-L5), with their only success in that sample arriving during their title-winning season in December 2015.
Leicester [2.68] must get over the bitter disappointment of Tuesday's defeat quick with the preservation of their cushy position in the top four now paramount. The Foxes have taken maximum points in 11 of their 17 King Power Stadium encounters (W11-D3-L3) under Brendan Rodgers and with Jamie Vardy's return imminent, the hosts appear undervalued.
Chelsea2.74 have managed to collect only seven points from their past six road trips (W2-D1-L3) whilst scoring netting just seven goals. The Blues opened up their away league campaign with five triumphs from six, scoring 18 goals, and Frank Lampard is well aware that sloppy defensive errors and profligate finishing are to blame for the recent downturn.
Oppose goals and misfiring Blues
The last four meetings between Leicester and Chelsea have produced just three goals, with two of those tussles concluding 0-0. Earlier in the season, the two teams effectively cancelled each other out at Stamford Bridge during a 1-1 draw and it might pay to oppose a high-scoring shootout when the duo renew hostilities on Saturday afternoon.
Leicester's conversion rate in front of goal has dropped over the past eight weeks and the Foxes may opt for a more conservative approach as they look to consolidate their envious position in the Premier League table. Four of their five fixtures here under Brendan Rodgers against Big Six opposition have featured fewer than four goals and a repeat looks likely.
Chelsea are by some distance the lowest scorers in the top four despite averaging well over 16 shots per-game. Without Tammy Abraham leading the Blues attack, wayward finishing could again prove costly for Frank Lampard's visitors and so I'm happy to take the2.20 available on Leicester in the Double Chance market and Under 3.5 Goals via the Same Game Multithis weekend.