Reigning champions Leicester City recently travelled to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea, with the home team emerging victorious. Chelsea, the champions in the year prior to Leicester’s triumph, seemed to experiment with a new formation, and it seemed to be the catalyst in their victory, as Conte’s high-pressing philosophy seemed to enable the home side to claim the points. Chelsea’s starting eleven was notable for the absence of Willian, granted compassionate leave due to his mother’s passing, yet this may have made the result even more pivotal; the players wore black armbands in her memory, yet perhaps more poignantly the unity of the London club seemed to be highlighted through the celebrations, with both Costa and Hazard choosing to celebrate their goals with a ‘W’ symbol made by their hands, representing Willian.
Leicester City travelled to London seeking their first Premier League win since the 17th September and, whilst their Champions League exploits seem to be passing with success, their Premier League form may need to improve. This, coupled with the fixture being competed between the two sides who have won the most recent Premier League titles, seemed to suggest the upcoming match may be an intriguing one, contested between the two teams perhaps possessing the most talent in England. This talent, between the starting elevens combined, amounted to a cost of over £250 million, which seemed to suggest there was a smorgasbord of quality competing for victory at Stamford Bridge.
Pre-match, it may have seemed Chelsea were the favourites, as they have seemed to have started in a more consistent manner than Leicester during their quest to bring Champions League football back to Stamford Bridge. In their opening seven fixtures, they had recorded four wins, and 13 points, and as a result were in 7th position in the table. Leicester on the other hand lay in 12th, and as such it seemed both teams deemed the three points as necessary in order to continue their pursuit of the title. Chelsea seemed to start decisively, taking the lead after seven minutes, a corner turned in by the league’s top scorer Diego Costa after a flick-on from holding midfielder Nemanja Matic. By half-time, the Blues’ lead had been doubled thanks to Eden Hazard, who rounded Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after a set of intricate short passes. As the game drew to a close, the tempo seemed to rise, and Chelsea added a third goal through right-wing back Victor Moses, who slotted home after a Cruyff-turn assist from substitute Nathaniel Chalobah.
The match also saw a matchup between two of the world’s most successful managers, who have both won titles across Europe and internationally. Ultimately though, it seems Conte was the more satisfied manager; his formation change to a 3-4-3 seemed to impact the game significantly, as it seemed to provide his attacking players with more space, perhaps contributing to the high amount of shots they recorded: 16. Perhaps more crucial was the influx of English players on show; Leicester started three Englishmen, whilst Chelsea substituted on three academy graduates: Chalobah, Loftus-Cheek and Aina. This may lead to multiple productive insights; firstly, English players possess enough quality to start in the Premier League, whilst Chelsea’s reliance on academy graduates perhaps suggests Conte is providing an opportunity for players from the youth academy who possess enough quality to compete for first team places.
Both clubs face home ties in their upcoming fixtures, with Leicester hosting Crystal Palace and Chelsea playing versus former manager José Mourinho’s side Manchester United. For Chelsea, victory in the aforementioned game may provide Conte’s team with motivation ahead of the rest of the season, as it seems the new signings, Luiz and Alonso, have settled into the team, whilst Conte’s formation change seems to have paid dividends. For Leicester, this game may be seen as the catalyst for changing their fortunes, and picking up vital wins in the run-up to Christmas. Either way, Chelsea winning versus the reigning champions may suggest this season may be competitive, yet, based on this performance, perhaps it is Chelsea which seems to be better equipped for a title challenge.
Which of these teams may be better equipped to win the Premier League title?