Hello and welcome to to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Premier League meeting between Chelsea
and Leicester City
at Stamford Bridge. The champions of the last two top-flight campaigns lock horns in West London to kick off this weekend of action, with both teams already playing catch up if they are to once more come out on top.
The hosts find themselves in seventh place heading into this round of fixtures, having made a rather mixed start to the campaign. One point from nine recently saw Antonio Conte
return to the drawing board to revert back to his favoured formation from Juventus and the Italian national side, while visitors Leicester have made an even shakier start and are down in 12th at this early stage.
CHELSEA XI: Courtois; Moses, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Alonso; Kante, Matic; Pedro, Hazard; Costa
LEICESTER CITY XI: Schmeichel; Hernandez, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Albrighton, Drinkwater, Amartey, Schlupp; Musa, Vardy
Let us start by checking out some team news, then, which shows one change from last time out as far as the hosts are concerned. It is an enforced change, too, as Willian misses out this afternoon due to the sad passing of his mother earlier this week. Pedro is the man to come into the side in what appears to be a 3-4-3 formation, with Gary Cahill and David Luiz remaining in the heart of defence despite the return to fitness of John Terry.
If this is indeed a 3-4-3 formation, with Victor Moses
and Marcos Alonso fielded as wing-backs, then it will be a big afternoon for former Leicester midfielder N'Golo Kante who will have to drop into the backline at times. Kante was arguably the key component in the Foxes' title-winning squad last season, producing the most interceptions on his way to earning numerous plaudits. Nemanja Matic, and not Cesc Fabregas, is again the man to fill in alongside him in the middle.
No surprise to see Diego Costa
lead the line once more, meanwhile, as the Spaniard has hit the ground running this term thanks to six goal in his opening seven league outings. Costa now has 38 Premier League goals since the start of the 2014-15 season, in fact, which is bettered only by Sergio Aguero (55) and Harry Kane (48). Pedro, in for Willian, is the man tasked with providing the chances, while Hazard will also come into a more central position due to this wing-back system adopted by Conte.
In terms of the visitors, Claudio Ranieri
has made three changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Southampton a fortnight ago. The big news is that Riyad Mahrez is only on the bench today, with Jeffrey Schlupp instead preferred to him presumably due to fitness concerns; the 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year only just returning from international duty with national side Algeria. Islam Slimani and Danny Simpson also drop out of the side, meaning places in the XI for Ahmed Musa and Luis Hernandez.
Kasper Schmeichel appears to have put his injury worries behind him as he is again named between the sticks today, and three members of the back four from last time out retain their places as Robert Huth, Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs all start. Hernandez looked poor on the opening day against Hull City and has needed to adapt to the Premier League, but he faces a huge task this afternoon with Hazard likely to be among those to target his flank.
Danny Drinkwater was a doubt for this match after pulling out of international duty with England through a groin injury, yet he has managed to shake off that knock and is deemed fit enough to start in West London. Nampalys Mendy will play no part whatsoever, though, as he is suffering from an ankle injury, so Daniel Amartey is instead named in a central-midfield four alongside Drinkwater, Schlupp and Marc Albrighton.
CHELSEA SUBS: Begovic, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Terry, Chalobah, Aina, Solanke
LEICESTER CITY SUBS: King, Simpson, Slimani, Zieler, Gray, Ulloa, Mahrez
So returning skipper John Terry, who has been absent for the best part of five weeks now, has to settle for a place among the Chelsea subs. Michy Batshuayi is the only obvious attacking replacement for the Blues, although youngster Dominic Solanke may be given a chance to show what he is capable of should the hosts require a goal at some stage. Slimani and Mahrez are left out of the side with one eye on the Champions League tie against Copenhagen, with Simpson the third alteration from last time out.
Antonio Conte has made just the one change from last time out, bringing in Pedro for Willian who misses out due to personal reasons. Opposition boss Claudio Ranieri makes three alterations, meanwhile, dropping two star men in Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez, as well as full-back Danny Simpson, with one eye on the midweek Champions League tie against Copenhagen in midweek.
© Getty Images
So not the best of starts for either side, then, but it is Chelsea who will be marginally happier with the way their campaign has started. The Blues kicked things off with three wins from three, but a disappointing run was to follow when taking one point from a possible nine. Conte's men did require late goals in two of those opening three fixtures, so all was not quite well, and so it proved when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Swansea City in a game that they largely dominated in South Wales.
The defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool were worrying for Conte, as Chelsea struggled to cope with both teams as they slumped to back-to-back losses. Conte was made to go back to the drawing board, so to speak, by reverting to his favoured five-at-the-back system which served him so well in Italy. Out went Branislav Ivanovic and in came summer signing Marcos Alonso, with Victor Moses filling in on the opposite flank in a wing-back system that brought all three points back from Hull.
Conte is certainly a ruthless manager, which is largely why he was brought to Stamford Bridge in the summer following what was a disastrous campaign last time out. The Italian has now had another couple of weeks to drill the players not away on international duty, with the performance we seen against Arsenal in particular surely now a thing of the past. If the Blues are to have any hope of challenging for the top four, let alone the title, then they simply cannot afford to roll over against the division's better sides.
Chelsea did return to winning ways last time out, however, and with Man City also falling to their first defeat of the season it has left the door open at the top. Victory today and the Blues will all of a sudden be just two points behind the current pacesetters ahead of their home clash with Everton later today. Conte's men face a difficult run, though, as they take on champions Leicester, Man United, Everton and Tottenham here in succession over the coming weeks.
A lack of European football this week is a blessing in disguise for Conte, who needs as much time on the training pitch of possible to drill this new system into his players, but there is also the small distraction of the EFL Cup. A run in the cup will certainly help the Italian to win over supporters, and an away tie with London rivals West Ham United is a nice fixture for the Blues, who will be looking to build up some momentum ahead of the next international break in a month's time.
There was a time not so long ago that Chelsea were superb on home soil, but that has not quite been the case over the past year or so. Eight of their last 13 top-flight games at Stamford Bridge have ended level, with only three wins in that time, but you have to go back to 2011 to find the last time the West London outfit lost back-to-back home league games. A 2-1 reverse to Liverpool here last month means that only three points will do for Chelsea this afternoon, as they aim to climb back up the table.
DID YOU KNOW?
This will be Claudio Ranieri
's third Premier League game against his former suitors, with each coming against a different opponent - Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and now Antonio Conte
. The Italian spent four years here in the early noughties, managing one short of 200 games and winning just over half. Furthermore, Ranieri's last meeting with Conte came back in March 2012, when defeat for his Inter Milan side to Juventus led to his sacking the following day.
Claudio Ranieri spent four years at Stamford Bridge at the turn of the century, but he was given the shove by owner Roman Abramovich with Chelsea on the brink of their glory years. Many men have come and gone since, including two over the past 12 months - Mourinho being sacked last year before Hiddink was brought in to steady the ship for new man Conte.
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Domestically speaking, this season has not gone quite to plan for Ranieri thus far. It was difficult to predict exactly how this campaign would pan out for the title winners on the back of such an extraordinary year that will likely never be topped again. It is becoming increasingly likely that the Foxes will be unable to compete at the top once more, however, with their hopes now clearly on progressing in Europe as they have rested two big hitters for this afternoon's latest Premier League match.
Leicester have won just two of their opening seven games to date, both of which came at home in games against Swansea City and Burnley. The Foxes have also drawn with Arsenal and Southampton at the King Power Stadium, which was such a fortress last season and has still remained a tough venue to visit this term with no visiting side leaving there victorious. It is away from home where the problems lie, though, with no wins on their travels and a whopping 10 goals shipped already.
That opening-game defeat to Hull was damaging, providing a sign of things to come, while the heavy losses to Liverpool and Manchester United were pretty damning. Leicester have been unable to replicate their success of last season, largely because they now have a big target of their back with teams desperate to get one over on the reigning champions. City head into this game at the bottom of the table in terms of away results, in fact, and they will now be desperate to stop the rot in West London against the 2014-15 champions.
It is worth mentioning that Leicester boasted the best defensive record on their travels last season, shipping just 18 all term on their run to the title, but they are already just eight short of that figure in the opening quarter of this campaign. City are also out of the EFL Cup, thanks to defeat to today's opponents in the last round, but the good news for supporters - and this is no small consolation - is that they are well on their way to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
That already looks likely being the Foxes' top target, as they know that this may be a one-off appearance in Europe's elite club competition. Victories over Club Brugge and Porto has left Leicester top of their group, with a double-header against Copenhagen now to come before the next international break. Positive results from those and supporters can begin saving up for some more European trips in the early stages of the New Year.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Chelsea failed to win both encounters last season, having won the previous six. Leicester City did fall to a 4-2 defeat in last month's EFL Cup meeting, though - a game that they led 2-0 at one stage in the first half before shipping four times without response. The Foxes' only win in their last 10 visits here was in September 2000, around 24 hours before Ranieri took over at Stamford Bridge.
With kickoff at Stamford Bridge now less than 10 minutes away, let us turn attention to some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Antonio Conte: "We know the situation [with Costa] - it was the same before the Hull City game. I think we must think about the present and not look further. Diego knows but he must fight the same way as the previous games. I hope he doesn't take another yellow card."
Claudio Ranieri: "Opponents now know Jamie very well. They know that if they leave space behind for him to run into that he can kill you. Now we have to try and surprise them in a different way. We have three [top-qualiy strikers] working together in our sessions. We always play them together so they can link up together better. I believe in these three guys."
Conte talking their about the risk of losing Costa for the meeting with Man United next weekend; the Spaniard now just one caution away from being handed an early-season suspension. Costa has hit six goals in his first seven league games and would be a huge loss should he indeed enter the referee's book but, according to Arsene Wenger recently at least, he has now matured slightly and is less at risk of picking up needless cautions. We will soon see about that!
Ranieri was discussing the threat of his forward players, meanwhile, but he has opted to leave out Slimani today and instead bring in Ahmed Musa to partner Jamie Vardy up top. That is still a more than adequate pairing in attack, and one that could seriously trouble Luiz and Cahill in the Chelsea defence, but Mahrez being left on the bench does weaken the quality of the Foxes' attack at Stamford Bridge.
Defeat for Leicester City today will make them the first defending champions since Blackburn Rovers in 1995-96 to lose their opening four away league games. Chelsea have not lost back-to-back home games since 2011, meanwhile, which they are at risk of doing today. Plenty to keep an eye on, then, with kickoff in West London now less than two minutes away!
KICKOFF! We are up and running at Stamford Bridge, with Leicester City - sporting their all red strip - getting proceedings under way. Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante receiving some jeers from the away fans early on here.
The hosts bossing the ball in the early stages of this game, as expected, but they have been unable to make too many inroads in the opposition half thus far. Costa almost slipped in by Hazard but City had a man across to sweep up the ball.
Hazard has looked lively early on, but some of his decision-making has been questionable. First, a simple pass was easily pounced on by Hernandez, before the Belgian opted to take on a shot which ended a good five yards wide of the target in the end.
SAVE! First bit of attacking quality of the match comes from Moses down the right-hand flank, with his cross deflecting off Fuchs and towards the bottom corner. Schmeichel was alert to the danger and got down well to concede a corner.
GOAL! CHELSEA 1-0 LEICESTER CITY (DIEGO COSTA)
First corner of the match and Leicester have conceded. This is as bad a piece of defending you are likely to see at this level, as the ball made its way through the box to Costa who had absolute acres of space to just blast the ball through Schmeichel and into the net. That's seven goals in eight games for the Spaniard and 39 overall for Chelsea.
The hosts win a second corner of the match, which this time is easily dealt with by Drinkwater at the front post. Chelsea continuing to boss the ball now and not allowing their opponents to counter when they do win back possession.
Chelsea on fire at the moment and really closing in on a second. Moses gets the better of Schlupp down the left and sends in a dangerous cross which makes its way right to the back post, where a red shirt is waiting to put the ball behind for a corner.
Leicester now finally knocking the ball around and working their way into midfield, rather than constantly sitting back and looking for the counter-attacking opportunity. A cross comes in from Albrighton which Courtois collects ahead of Vardy.
No chances or shots since that breakthrough Chelsea goal, but it is the Blues who will be happier with the way things have panned out since that point. City do look a little livelier now, though, and are being urged on by their fans to get out of this slump.
Half a chance for Hazard, as Kante scoops a ball over the Leicester backline for the Belgian to latch on to. Hazard timed his run perfectly but failed to make the right contact from a tight ankle, with the ball looping into the air for Schmeichel to collect.
Pedro's cross has a little too much on it for Costa, who just could not head the ball back into a dangerous area. The Blues really are dominating things at the moment and are looking good value to inflict another heavy defeat on their opponents.
Chelsea knocking the ball around with ease at the moment, really using the width of the pitch through Moses and Alonso down the flanks. Leicester may get chances to burst forward as the game goes on but at the moment they have shown zero attacking intent.
Conte may be concerned by his side's lack of real chances with more than quarter of this match now played, as they are dominating the ball but have created just that one opening so far, which Costa more than made the most of.
YELLOW CARD! A booking for Huth on his latest return to Stamford Bridge, following a unnecessary challenge 35 yards from goal. Luiz is the man standing over the free kick, which he will likely take on despite the distance.
OFF THE POST! Luiz within inches of scoring a world-class goal, as his free-kick attempt from 35 yards out crashes back off the upright. It was one of those which swerved a lot in the air, leaving Schmeichel beaten but with the frame of the game to his rescue.
Alonso's deep free kick is headed clear by Morgan. Leicester still yet to have a shot of any note, and you can count on one hand the amount of times they have ventured forward into their opponents' half of the field. That said, it is still only 1-0 at this stage.
GOAL! CHELSEA 2-0 LEICESTER CITY (EDEN HAZARD)
Yet another terrible goal for Leicester to concede, as they face another potential heavy defeat right in the face. Hazard did get a tad fortunate as a through-ball deflected rather fortunately for him, but he still had work to do as he rounded Schmeichel and rolled the ball home.
The ball is crying out to be blasted by Matic on the edge of the box, but he wants to take a touch and he gets it stuck under his feet. Chelsea good value for their two-goal lead and are looking likely to bag a third before the break.
So many similarities to that game at Old Trafford last month, which Leicester crumbled in to concede four times in the first half. Still seven minutes of the first half to go here, but the visitors are finally starting to wake up now.
City win their first corner, which is horribly dealt with by the hosts. Alonso perhaps didn't expect the ball to make it as far as it did, and he rather scuffed his clearance back into the mix, where it was again helped behind.
SAVE! Another well-struck from Luiz, this time from the opposite side but with similar ferocity. Schmeichel was just happy to parry the ball away, where thankfully for him no Chelsea player was near enough to capitalise.
Pedro turns on the style to instigate an attacking move for his side, which culminates in Hazard cutting inside and firing away a shot which is well blocked. The Blues desperate to add a third before the break to kill this game off for good.
Hernandez's cross is met by Musa, who does all he really can with the ball but can only direct it well wide of the target. Leicester's first attempt of any note this half, but not one to really shout about at this late stage.
HALF TIME: CHELSEA 2-0 LEICESTER CITY
Chelsea take a 2-0 lead into the break at Stamford Bridge following a dominant first-half display against champions Leicester City. Diego Costa and Eden Hazard
were both on target for the hosts, and Leicester really cannot have any complaints as they barely mustered an attacking move all half.
Leicester's set-piece difficulties took just seven minutes to come to the forefront as the game's first corner kick led to the hosts' breakthrough goal. Eden Hazard's corner was flicked on by Nemanja Matic for Diego Costa, with all the space in the world, to blast through Kasper Schmeichel and into the back of the net. City, who also slipped to an EFL CUp defeat to today's opponents just last month, were unable to put together any sort of attacking move and it was Chelsea who were knocking on the door for a second.
Despite their positive passing moves from open play, the second nearly arrived from a dead-ball situation as David Luiz's free kick swerved through the air but back off the upright. The Foxes did not heed the warning and they were indeed soon two behind after yet more comical defending, this time when Robert Huth and Luis Hernandez - in for his first start since the opening day - got in a muddle and the ball fell nicely for Hazard. The Belgian did have a bit of fortune but he still had plenty to do, rounding the keeper and slotting over the line to put Chelsea well on their way.
Luiz had another chance to register his name on the scoresheet for the first time since returning to West London, but his latest free-kick attempt was parried by Schmeichel who was just happy to get something on the powerfully-struck shot. There has been nothing to suggest that a comeback could be on the cards in the second half, but Ranieri does have Mahrez and Slimani on his bench, remember.
Here is a reminder of both sides' benches, which for Leicester includes aforementioned pair Slimani and Mahrez. Will Ranieri turn to them at some point or instead further weaken his side at the interval, much like he did at Old Trafford recently when trailing by four goals at the midway stage.
CHELSEA SUBS: Begovic, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Terry, Chalobah, Aina, Solanke
LEICESTER CITY SUBS: King, Simpson, Slimani, Zieler, Gray, Ulloa, Mahrez
© Getty Images
RESTART! Chelsea get us back under way at Stamford Bridge, where they lead champions Leicester City by two goals. Pedro immediately gets into the box from a long ball, but his appeals for a penalty are turned down by Andre Marriner.
No changes made by Ranieri at the break, incidentally, so he will stick with his current deck of cards for a little while longer. Schlupp is halted by Moses when charging into the box but the Leicester man was definitely looking for it.
YELLOW CARD! Third penalty appeal of the half already, as Fuchs gets a hold on Pedro inside the box. Just like the other two, though, it would have been incredible harsh had Andre Marriner given it. Azpilicueta is booked for a late challenge on Musa.
Much better from Leicester in this second half, as they show more attacking intent and get bodies forward. That opens the door for Chelsea to attack up the other end but the Foxes could not continue to sit back all game.
Albrighton finds space in a promising zone but cannot keep his shot on target. Ranieri will be happy with this response from his players, with Conte perhaps thinking of a change as we approach the hour mark at Stamford Bridge.
SAVE! Certainly an improvement from the Foxes but they are still unable to trouble their opponents in terms of shots and chances. They did win another corner, though, which Albrighton takes for Chelsea to clear and break through Kante. The midfielder laid it off for Moses, who took on the shot first time for Schmeichel to push aside.
Next goal in this game, if it does indeed arrive, really is huge now, with Leicester looking far more livelier in attack but also being left open to counters at the back. Both managers waiting to make their first changes from the bench.
City continuing to build some momentum now, using aggression to quickly win back the ball and pounce forward. Fuchs gives away the most needless of free kicks down the left-hand side, though, which allows Chelsea to take the sting out of things.
OFF THE POST! This is a brilliant game for the neutral now, thanks to Leicester's ability to finally click into gear in attack. A cross from the right was into the area of Vardy, who has barely had a touch all game, but Luiz got there first and diverted the ball onto his own post. A tad fortunate, but a great bit of defensive play.
Still no changes with 25 minutes of the game to go, but Ranieri has called two of his player back towards the dugout so that could be about to change. In a complete contrast to the first half, Leicester now the side largely in control.
LEICESTER CITY SUBS! Musa and Schlupp are replaced by big hitters Slimani and Mahrez. A different kind of challenge for Chelsea to deal with now, in a game that is far from over at this stage in proceedings.
CHELSEA SUB! Conte responds immediately to that double change by bringing on Chalobah for his third senior Chelsea appearance, in place of Pedro who has done well this afternoon. The Spaniard is a tad upset to have been hauled off.
Kante wins back the ball, as ever, which allows Costa and Hazard to exchange passes. A little too slick in the end, though, as Leicester deal with the danger inside their own box and clear their lines. Twenty minutes left to play at Stamford Bridge.
CLOSE! So close to a third for Chelsea, which will kill off Leicester for good. Costa's attempt is stopped by Schmeichel, but it lands in the path of Kante whose shot is blocked by Morgan right on the line. That would have gone in if not for the skipper.
LEICESTER CITY SUB! City's momentum does appear to have been halted now and Chelsea are breathing a little easier. Andy King is now on for their final change, replacing Albrighton with just 15 minutes of the game to go.
Conte about to make the second of his three changes, as the Blues look to tick down the clock. The opening 20 minutes of this half were gripping but it has gone off the boil since Leicester made their double alteration midway through.
SAVE! Another save made by Schmeichel, who gets across to push aside Matic's deflected shot inside the box. The Serbian was allowed to keep on running into a central position, but credit to the visitors for getting in a block when it mattered.
GOAL! CHELSEA 3-0 LEICESTER CITY (VICTOR MOSES)
If this was intended, which is appeared to be, then we can close the assist of the season competition. Chalobah's flicked pass into the path of Moses is coolly tucked away by the Nigerian to earn the three points for Chelsea in style. Superb ball from the second-half sub!
CHELSEA SUBS! Points now safely in the bag, Conte makes his final two changes. Goalscorers Hazard and Moses make way, with Loftus-Cheek and Aina brought on in their place to add some freshness in the closing stages.
Chelsea in exhibition mode now, with the game all over thanks to Moses's strike a few minutes ago. Back to the drawing board for Ranieri, whose side cannot stop conceding on their travels - let alone pick up any points.
Leicester had lost just one of their last five Premier League games in London after losing 17 and drawing one of the previous 20, but it is back to losing ways in the capital. Ranieri's men did get forward a few moments ago but the cross had too much on it for Slimani.
A few minutes of added time expected, with Chelsea closing in on back-to-back wins now. It has been fairly straightforward, in truth, as Conte's men were two ahead 33 minutes in and never under any serious threat from that point on.
We are one minute into three added on at the end of this one-sided affair at Stamford Bridge, and there is little sign of the scoreline altering. An impression showing by Chelsea, but another terrible result for Leicester on their travels.
FULL TIME: CHELSEA 3-0 LEICESTER CITY
The full-time whistle sounds at Stamford Bridge, meaning back-to-back wins for Chelsea and manager Antonio Conte. They were much the superior side in West London, scoring twice in the first half through Diego Costa and Eden Hazard and then adding a third - via the boot of Victor Moses - late in the match. For Leicester City, on the other hand, it is now four defeats from four on their travels.
That concludes Sports Mole's live text coverage of events at Stamford Bridge, but be sure to stick around for some reaction from West London, as well as updates from a few other 3pm kickoffs in the top flight. Enjoy!