Chelsea travel to the King Power Stadium for a battle to be on top of the bottom of the top four. Here are the key match-ups that will shape the outcome.
Chelsea and Leicester both limp into this fixture after a run of poor form. Both teams had a result in their last time out and they drew the reverse fixture, but neither team has been close to their best in recent weeks. Whichever side gets the better of these clashes will likely go into the winter break with three more points.
1. Ricardo Pereira vs. Emerson / Cesar Azpilicueta / Marcos Alonso
Since Jamie Vardy scores all the goals and James Maddison generates all the hype, Ricardo Pereira is undervalued as one of Leicester’s most important players. With Ben Chilwell mirroring him on the left flank, the two fullbacks are the second-best pairing in the league, behind (obviously) Liverpool’s duo.
A good Leicester performance usually involves Pereira bombing up and down the right touchline, running the opposing defenders ragged over the course of the match. Given Chelsea’s issues at left back, this presents a bit of a problem.
Depending on Reece James’ fitness, Cesar Azpilicueta could be deployed on the left side of the defense. That would at least offer some solidity in one-on-one situations. Unfortunately, Azpilicueta just doesn’t have the pace to hang with Pereira once he gets going.
Emerson, who at least has the athleticism to keep up, is the other likely option. Unfortunately, he’s a flat-out bad defender.
Part of what makes Pereira great is his unpredictability. He’s as apt to poach a goal in the box as he is to send in a perfect cross.
Emerson struggles to deal with one-trick ponies. A versatile threat like Pereira is well beyond his capabilities.
The only real hope is for Chelsea to pile on enough pressure to pin Leicester in their own half for as long as possible, like they did in the first half of the reverse fixture back in August. Even then, Leicester are extremely scary on the counter, with Pereira often leading the charge alongside Jamie Vardy.
On paper, this matchup leans decidedly in Leicester’s favor. It will take a herculean effort by Chelsea’s left back to keep Leicester’s Portuguese dynamo at bay. Given what we’ve seen this season, that doesn’t look particularly likely.