PMB: Leicester City v Chelsea – tactics

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We conclude our Pre-Match Briefing for today’s FA Cup encounter…

 TACTICAL BRIEF
•            Antonio Conte and his players seemed quite sanguine after losing to Barcelona in midweek. The Champions League campaign may be over but several of them mentioned that the FA Cup, Chelsea’s last trophy hunt of the season, offers an immediate pick-me-up.

•            Although the international break beckons, the Italian may choose to freshen up his side after Wednesday’s physical and mental exertions, though, and the likes of Gary Cahill, Danny Drinkwater, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Pedro, Alvaro Morata, Davide Zappacosta, Emerson and Willy Caballero will be pressing their case for involvement.

•            The head coach likes to include a few talented youngsters where possible. As the game must be settled on the day, extra-time is a possibility, in which case a fourth substitute may come off the bench.

•            Despite the 0-0 scoreline, the January league game against Leicester at the Bridge could have gone either way, though the Blues dominated following full-back Ben Chilwell’s red card. Chelsea were in the midst of a hectic schedule then, and the Foxes may look fresher again this weekend after their mini-break in Spain.

•            Set-plays could well decide the outcome here, with both sides strong on dead-ball routines. However, the Londoners’ goals in the 2-1 early season win at the King Power came from open play: a Cesar Azpilicueta cross to Alvaro Morata’s head, and N’Golo Kante spanking one in from long-range against his former club.

 

•            Under Claude Puel, the Foxes managed five wins in their first eight games, but then two from the next 12. The former Saints boss has kept the Leicester identity established under Claudio Ranieri while tweaking the system to be less dependent on counter-attacking. That means, for instance, playing the ball out from the back and a more possession-based approach.

•            A high press when Leicester attempt to play out from the back has led to a few goals against them, and two banks of three pushed high and wide was a tactic Chelsea used against Barcelona at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

•            Initially under Puel, Jamie Vardy was more involved in deep positions rather than coming alive when the ball is played over a centre-back’s shoulder, or when the wingers fire in a cross. The England striker and his attacking partner Riyad Mahrez have looked back to their old ways in recent weeks, though.

•            Although Daniel Amartey is sidelined, Wilfred Ndidi has emerged as the Foxes’ key central midfielder in Puel’s 4-5-1 formation following the departures of Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante to the Bridge. Leicester, eighth in the Premier League, are expected to field a full-strength side.

 

OLD BOY BLUES

•            Berliner Robert Huth made his Chelsea debut in 2001/02 and having built a reputation for robust defending and sledgehammer free-kicks. He was a back-to-back Premier League champion at the Bridge 2004-2006.