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Preview: Leicester City vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's FA Cup clash between Leicester City and Chelsea, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The FA Cup will be draped in blue by the close of play on Saturday, as Leicester City and Chelsea battle it out for the chance to lift the prestigious trophy in front of 21,000 Wembley spectators.

The Foxes will be taking part in their fifth final as they search for their maiden FA Cup crown, while Saturday's game represents Chelsea's 15th appearance in the showpiece event as they seek a ninth triumph.

Brendan Rodgers's men dumped Southampton out in the semi-finals to make plans for May 15, while Thomas Tuchel's side ended Manchester City's quadruple dream in the final four to book their spot in the 140th FA Cup final.


Match preview

Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho scores against Southampton in the FA Cup on April 18, 2021© Reuters

It only seemed fitting to witness the rejuvenated Kelechi Iheanacho score the goal which propelled the Foxes into their first FA Cup final since 1969, as this season's top scorer in the tournament struck with 55 minutes on the clock to extinguish Southampton's trophy hopes on April 18.

The meteoric rise of the Foxes over the past 10 years has led to the most unlikely of Premier League title wins, but that is the only piece of silverware that they have to show for their reincarnation so far, and there is belief that Rodgers could be the man to fill the cabinet again.

It has been a long and arduous journey for Leicester to book their spot in the FA Cup final for the first time in 52 years, with the Foxes losing 1-0 to Manchester City all the way back in 1969, and not one of their previous three final appearances before that ended in triumph.

Expected wins over Stoke City, Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion preceded a pulsating 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the quarter-finals for Leicester, who did not rest on their laurels against a declining Southampton outfit in front of a handful of fans at Wembley.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers pictured on March 3, 2021© Reuters

Now aiming to channel the spirits of the 1960s finalists, Leicester head into Saturday's showpiece event following a crucial win in the top flight, as goals from Luke Thomas and Caglar Soyuncu either side of Mason Greenwood's equaliser saw them prevail 2-1 against a second-string Manchester United XI.

The Foxes' top-four destiny is therefore still in their own hands as they bid to return to the pinnacle of European football, but they must quickly renew hostilities with Chelsea three days after their FA Cup final battle, while a final-day meeting with Tottenham Hotspur is hardly a straightforward task.

Premier League fortunes take a backseat for now, though, as Leicester step foot onto the Wembley turf for a cup final for the first time since 2000, where two strikes from Matt Elliott saw them defeat Tranmere 2-1 in the 1999-2000 EFL Cup final.

Leicester's record at the home of English football does not exactly make for positive reading, though, as they have lost 10 of their previous 15 matches at Wembley - winning four and drawing one - but they at least make the journey to the capital having prevailed in four of their last six games in all competitions.

A slice of personal history is also on the line for former Celtic boss Rodgers - a two-time Scottish Cup winner with the Bhoys - who will now hope to become just the second-ever manager to win both the English and Scottish FA Cups, following in the footsteps of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson himself.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel pictured on April 10, 2021© Reuters

Standing in Leicester's way are Thomas Tuchel's dogged and determined Chelsea outfit, who have been transformed under the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss as they continue to fight for success on domestic and continental fronts.

The Blues are also going head-to-head with Leicester for a spot in the top four as the Premier League season heads for its final straight, but having come so close yet so far under Frank Lampard in last year's FA Cup, Tuchel needs no added incentive to get the job done this week.

In doing so, the German boss would follow a similar path to that of Mikel Arteta - who took over at Arsenal halfway through the season and led them to FA Cup glory last year - and it was the Gunners boss who got the better of Tuchel in Wednesday's London derby.

In a turn of events that Arsenal fans have become accustomed to seeing from their own team, Jorginho was forced into making a mistake and so nearly turned the ball into his own net had it not been for the heroics of Kepa Arrizabalaga, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on hand to set up Emile Smith Rowe for the game's only goal in the 16th minute.

Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech celebrates scoring against Manchester City in the Premier League on May 8, 2021© Reuters

Chelsea huffed and puffed but just could not find a way past an inspired Arsenal defence at Stamford Bridge - where they had only previously conceded to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League under Tuchel - and a momentum-killing defeat is not what Chelsea needed before their 15th FA Cup final.

Lampard oversaw routine wins over Morecambe and Luton Town before being relieved of his duties, while Tuchel has witnessed his side dump Barnsley, Sheffield United and the former quadruple-chasers Manchester City out of the tournament, with Hakim Ziyech netting the only goal of the game against the latter.

While the trigger-happy Chelsea board are renowned for chopping and changing the Blues' managers, one thing has been consistent with all of them - their penchant for cup finals. Indeed, Chelsea have now reached the showpiece event of a competition for the fifth year running, and there is the small matter of a Champions League final to come later this month.

Chelsea were the masters of their own downfall against Arsenal, but they are yet to concede under Tuchel in this year's FA Cup and had strung a seven-game unbeaten run together before Wednesday's defeat, while their ridiculous squad depth means that Tuchel has plenty of options for change ahead of the final.

Not since Newcastle United in 1998 and 1999 has a team lost back-to-back FA Cup finals, and while Chelsea may have their eyes on the ultimate prize in the form of the Champions League, lifting the prestigious FA Cup with fans present is enough motivation for any team to end the strangest of seasons with a flourish.

Leicester City FA Cup form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Leicester City form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W

Chelsea FA Cup form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Chelsea form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L



Team News

Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech celebrates scoring against Manchester City in the FA Cup on April 17, 2021© Reuters

Leicester will walk out onto the Wembley turf without long-term absentees James Justin and Harvey Barnes (both knee), while a back injury will prevent Premier League-winning captain Wes Morgan from having another shot at silverware.

However, Rodgers is hopeful that Jonny Evans will be able to power through and shake off a foot injury in time to take his rightful spot in defence alongside Wesley Fofana and Soyuncu.

Evans's return would allow Timothy Castagne to feature on the flanks as Marc Albrighton drops out, while Ricardo Pereira should be fit enough to displace Thomas, despite his wonder strike at Old Trafford.

James Maddison was initially named on the bench at Old Trafford as Rodgers manages his fitness, so the playmaker is expected to replace Ayoze Perez in the first XI for Saturday's final.

Jamie Vardy is still waiting to make the net ripple in this season's FA Cup, but his record against big-six sides speaks for itself, and he is sure to lead the line alongside the red-hot Iheanacho.

Meanwhile, Chelsea boss Tuchel has confirmed that Mateo Kovacic will make the squad, but the midfielder will surely be named among the substitutes given his extended spell on the sidelines.

Jorginho will therefore be given the chance to redeem himself at Wembley, and Tuchel confirmed that Achilles pain prevented N'Golo Kante from featuring against Arsenal, but the Frenchman has been given the green light to play in the final.

Kante should therefore start over Billy Gilmour, while Ziyech is sure to come back in following his decisive goal in the semi-final - most likely over the fatigued Christian Pulisic.

Timo Werner was also given the night off in midweek and could lead the line over Kai Havertz, who spurned a gilt-edged chance to put Chelsea ahead against Arsenal.

Antonio Rudiger should also be fit enough to return, and Andreas Christensen has also been passed fit for the final, while Tuchel has confirmed that Kepa will keep his place in goal over Edouard Mendy.

Leicester City possible starting lineup:
Schmeichel; Evans, Fofana, Soyuncu; Pereira, Ndidi, Tielemans, Castagne; Maddison; Vardy, Iheanacho

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Ziyech, Mount; Werner


Head To Head

Saturday's FA Cup final represents 119th meeting between Chelsea and Leicester in all competitions, with the Blues boasting 57 wins compared to 27 for the Foxes.

Chelsea dumped Leicester out of the FA Cup in last year's quarter-finals, and they are unbeaten in nine previous meetings against the Foxes in the competition - winning seven and drawing two.

The quarter-final win represents the Blues' only win against the Foxes in their last six attempts, though, as Lampard oversaw a 2-0 defeat to Leicester in January before being given the boot.


SM words green background

We say: Leicester City 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea just could not find a way past Arsenal's three-man defence on Wednesday night, and with Leicester set to deploy a similar system at Wembley, this should be a truly intriguing FA Cup final.

Leicester, and Rodgers in particular, command plenty of respect as they bid to win the FA Cup for the first time ever, but we think that the Foxes will just fall short as Chelsea get their hands on the crown.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data


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How you voted: Leicester vs Chelsea

Leicester City
24.4%
Draw
13.3%
Chelsea
62.3%
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38275683325186
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd382111673442974
3Liverpool38209968422669
4Chelsea381910958362267
5Leicester CityLeicester382061268501866
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham381981162471565
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs381881268452362
8Arsenal381871355391661
9Leeds UnitedLeeds38185156254859
10Everton38178134748-159
11Aston Villa38167155546955
12Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174662-1645
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38129173652-1645
14Crystal Palace38128184166-2544
15Southampton38127194768-2143
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914154046-641
17Burnley38109193355-2239
RFulham38513202753-2628
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom38511223576-4126
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3872292063-4323

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