Jose Mourinho agrees with Claudio Ranieri that a top-four Barclays Premier League finish remains possible for Chelsea and challenged the champions to kickstart their domestic resurgence against the division’s surprise package.
Monday’s match will have the two sides in somewhat of a role reversal from previous meetings, with Leicester the high-flying form side and Chelsea in need of points to move away from the lower reaches of the top flight.
Leicester are 17 points ahead of Mourinho’s men, although they could be toppled from the summit by Arsenal, Manchester City or Manchester United before the clash at the King Power Stadium.
Chelsea ensured UEFA Champions League progression with victory over Mourinho’s former club Porto in midweek, but languish in the bottom half after a shock home defeat to AFC Bournemouth last weekend.
Ranieri backed his former team this week to claim a top-four spot and Mourinho, who succeeded the Italian at Stamford Bridge when he started his first tenure at Chelsea in 2004, takes a similar view, while holding his opposite number in the highest regard.
“One year ago they were bottom of the league and Ranieri was sacked by the Greece national team for losing to the Faroe Islands, now he is the top manager in the Premier League and their players are top of the league,” said the Portuguese. “That’s the beauty, it’s fantastic.
“Nobody has any doubt that he hasn’t forgotten his time at Chelsea. Everyone who is at this club for a certain period of time likes the club very much and Ranieri is showing the nice feeling he has, but I also believe what he says [about a top-four finish].
“Before we lost three points against Bournemouth I was absolutely convinced about finishing fourth in the table and I was convinced about a great December for us. While it’s mathematically possible we have to try.”
Mourinho has a fully fit squad to choose from, while Matty James and Ritchie De Laet (ankle) are Leicester’s only absentees, the former having made his return from a cruciate ligament injury in last week’s Under-21s defeat to Villarreal.
Ranieri has Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez fit and firing, with the Englishman having scored or assisted in 13 consecutive Barclays Premier League matches.
Mahrez’s hat-trick ensured Leicester a 3-0 win over Swansea City last time out and captain Wes Morgan says his side have nothing to fear.
“[The pressure] is on Chelsea a little bit,” Morgan told the club’s website. “They’re not in the best of form at the moment and they should be doing a lot better.
“We can’t write them off because they’re a fantastic team with fantastic players. At some point we know they will come good and go on a run of winning games.
“Everyone expects them to win every game but we’re full of confidence and we should be looking to get a win.
“I think we just need to carry on playing how we have been. It’s worked so far this season, the boys know their jobs and their roles and we just want to continue our run.”
Chelsea (from): Begovic, Blackman, Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Djilobodji, Ivanovic, Rahman, Terry, Zouma, Fabregas, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek, Matic, Mikel, Oscar, Ramires, Traore, Willian, Costa, Falcao, Kenedy, Pedro, Remy.
Leicester City (from): Schmeichel, Schwarzer, Benalouane, Fuchs, Huth, Morgan, Simpson, Wasilewski, Albrighton, Drinkwater, Dyer, Hammond, Inler, Kante, King, Mahrez, Schlupp, Dodoo, Kramaric, Okazaki, Ulloa, Vardy.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg Assistants: S Beck, J Collin Fourth Official: G Scott
– Leicester City have won seven and lost one of their last 10 Barclays Premier League home matches.
– Chelsea have won the last six BPL meetings with Leicester.
– Jose Mourinho’s side have won one of their last eight league away matches (W1 D2 L5).
– Since losing to Chelsea in April, Leicester have lost one of their last 19 BPL matches (W12 D6 L1).
– The Foxes have recovered 10 points from losing positions this season, more than any other team in the competition.
– N’Golo Kante has made more interceptions than any other top-flight player this season (64).
– Jamie Vardy has scored or assisted in 13 consecutive BPL games, beating Stan Collymore’s run of 12 set between March and August 1995.
As at this post Leicester City has 3.13 odd to win the match on NaijaBet while Chelsea has 2.33 odd to win the match also, while the odd to draw the match is 3.43