Chelsea – Leicester
Chelsea will try to notch their first victory in the Frank Lampard era when they meet Leicester this Sunday afternoon. The match takes place on Stamford Bridge and will actually be the first home game for the former Chelsea midfielder and record goalscorer.
However, Leicester will have plans of their own. Brendan Rodgers’ side is considered as one of the dark horses which might be able to get into the Top 6 mix should they be given the chance and here they will definitely try to get a good result.
Frank Lampard didn’t have the best of starts upon his Chelsea return. His first match was a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals Manchester United and his second match against Liverpool in the European Super Cup final also ended in defeat.
The first match must have been a disappointment for the new Chelsea manager in particular. In that match, Chelsea started very brightly and took the game to their opponents. They pressed well and put a lot of pressure on Manchester United’s defence. Tammy Abraham, who started as Chelsea’s lone striker, even hit the woodwork early on.
However, things quickly turned for the worse for the Blues as Kurt Zouma’s rash challenge on Marcus Rashford handed the Red Devils a well-deserved penalty. The young English striker used the gift and put the home side in front against the run of play.
This meant that Chelsea had to work hard to get back in the game and they nearly did. There were chances for Pedro, Emerson Palmieri, Mason Mount, and Ross Barkley to put the Blues back on level terms, but they all ended either in the woodwork or in De Gea’s hands.
In spite of those waves of attacks, Chelsea just couldn’t find a way through. In fact, while trying to come back from behind a glaring weakness became apparent to all watching the match and supporting the Blues.
It started to become evident that Chelsea wasn’t getting back in time when they lost the ball high up the pitch. That, in turn, led to a lot of counter-attacks for the Red Devils. What’s more, oftentimes, the Blues’ defenders were vastly outnumbered as they didn’t get adequate cover from their midfield.
It was in those types of situations that all of United’s next three goals were scored. Martial and Rashford scored two goals in quick succession in the 65th and 67th minute and new signing Daniel James put the finishing touch on an impressive victory in the 81st minute.
The defeat was described as a huge blow for Frank Lampard by many media outlets, but the manager quickly went to defend his players and their performances. To be fair, he was probably right as Chelsea didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of a 4-0 trashing. However, not being able to defend those counter-attacks proved to be the tipping point for the Blues.
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Interestingly enough, it was Chelsea’s legendary manager Jose Mourinho who rubbed the most salt on Frank Lampard’s wounds. The Portuguese, acting as a pundit, questioned Lampard’s team selection and said that players such as Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham are simply too inexperienced to take part in a game of this magnitude.
Frank Lampard was actually quite surprised that the two English prospects were singled out for criticism as, in his opinion, they played quite well. According to Lampard, Mason Mount was impressive in his attacking and defensive duties and to him the Mourinho comments actually came across as inaccurate.
Mourinho was often criticised during his Chelsea days for not selecting young academy players and seeing how Lampard has included so much young Chelsea talent, the Portuguese must feel like his former midfielder might succeed where he failed. In fact, you won’t be blamed if you think that Mourinho’s comments sounded more like the rumblings of a disgruntled old man than a realistic assessment of the match.
Super Cup Defeat
Chelsea played much better in their second match of the season against Liverpool in the European Super Cup. The Blues went toe to toe with the European champions in Istanbul and were arguably the better side. Salah, Mane, Firmino and co were to a large extent subdued and Liverpool’s defence had to be on its toes at all times as the threat of Giroud, Pedro, Pulisic, and later Mount and Abraham was present at all times.
Even though Chelsea lost on penalties to their English rivals, the fact of the matter is that Lampard’s team played an excellent European final and looked more like a complete team than a work in progress.
Returning Kante and Rudiger
The biggest reason why Chelsea played as well as they did was N’Golo Kante. The French dynamo returned later to full training and this meant that he couldn’t start in Manchester. However, he was able to start in Istanbul and that made a world of difference to the Blues.
The midfield trio of Kante, Jorginho, and Kovacic was in full control of the match and displayed composure in attack and aggressiveness in defence. Frank Lampard was full of praise for his midfielders after the match and Chelsea fans shared his sentiments.
The Blues might get an additional boost too and it might come as soon as the match against Leicester in the form of the returning Antonio Rudiger. The German international picked up a knee injury at the end of last season and had to go through a special rehabilitation program, but has recently rejoined the squad.
It is obvious that Chelsea’s young trio of defenders (Christensen, Zouma, and Tomori) is in desperate need of leadership, and the return of Rudiger will provide that and then some. With him in the squad, Lampard can look forward to having a really strong defensive unit, which combined with Chelsea’s quality in midfield, should assure Chelsea fans that the season ahead will turn out to be more successful than they initially expected.
No Pressure for the Foxes
Chelsea might fancy their chances against Leicester, but Brendan Rodgers’ team will not give the three points without a fight.
Like the Blues, the Foxes had a tough start to the season themselves. Their match against Wolverhampton was one that could have gone both ways and it wasn’t a surprise that it ended in a stalemate.
With the first match of the season and the pressure that comes with it out of the way, Rodgers and his side will go into this match feeling quite confident. Picking up a draw in the first round is not something to get really happy about, but going to play an under pressure Chelsea side certainly is.
It is obvious that all the pressure to win the Sunday afternoon match will be on Lampard’s side and Rodgers will relish this. The Foxes won’t be blamed if they lose to a top 4 side such as Chelsea, so the pressure for them is absolutely off.
In addition, they have a side which is more than capable of matching the Blues, especially when you take into consideration that they will have 8 days of rest in between matches coming to the Bridge, while the Blues will probably be exhausted after those 120 minutes and trip to Istanbul.
Strong on the Counter
Leicester will certainly be aware of Chelsea’s weakness when it comes to counter attacks and will look to exploit that. Even without Chelsea being weak on the counter, all of Rodgers’ sides have been built to play using counter-attacking football and this Leicester side is a prime example of that.
Players such as Maddison, Perez and Vardy can get away from their markers in next to no time and midfielders such as Tielemans can provide that killer, defence-splitting pass.
That’s why it is to be expected that Leicester will adapt the more defensive type of football and will wait for the Blues to invade their half before they launch one counter-attack after another. Should they score early and the Blues start to panic, anything can happen. Lampard will be looking for his first Chelsea win, but he might get an unpleasant surprise in front of his home crowd courtesy of the Foxes.