If you were watching Leicester City’s 2-1 victory over reigning champions Chelsea on Monday night, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a version of 80’s comedy classic Trading Places. If you’re unfamiliar with the movie another, perhaps more appropriate analogy would be Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.
This time last year Chelsea were top of the table and Leicester were rock bottom. What a difference a year makes. Leicester now find themselves top of the pile and Chelsea sit just one point off the drop zone. Despite both teams’ respective form, many pundits before the match still expected Chelsea to be victorious. Leicester however, took control of the game early on.
The Foxes dominated the first half with a bold 4-4-2 formation and still managed to win the midfield battle against the three central midfielders of Chelsea. The Leicester players looked hungrier and were first to almost every contestable ball. They got their reward when Riyad Mahrez timed his cross perfectly for Jamie Vardy to glide between John Terry and Kurt Zouma and stroke home after 34 minutes for his 15th goal of the season. The Foxes picked up in the second half where they left off in the first, and 3 minutes in Mahrez turned Azpilicueta inside out before picking out the top corner to double the lead. Azpilicueta’s positioning was questionable for both goals, but credit has to go to Mahrez who was a constant threat. The Algerian international and Vardy have now been involved in 35 Premier League goals between them this season (26 goals, 9 assists).
After the second goal Chelsea kicked it up a gear, but Leicester soaked up the pressure well and looked dangerous on the break, in much the same way Chelsea often played last season having taken a comfortable lead. Chelsea’s pressure eventually paid when substitute Loïc Remy headed in with 13 minutes to go, but Leicester remained resolute and finished the game stronger. You might have thought Chelsea were destined to grab a late equaliser when the board went up showing five minutes of stoppage time, but far from cower in their penalty area, The Foxes spent three of those minutes on the attack, chasing further goals rather than holding the ball by the corner flag.
The victory moves Leicester back to the top of the Premier League but Claudio Ranieri still maintained after the game that they needed another 7 points to all but guarantee safety and he wouldn’t consider any grander aspirations until then. The victory must have been even sweeter for The Foxes’ boss against his former club.
Chelsea’s task seems ominous having already lost nine matches this term, the same as the previous two seasons combined, and Eden Hazard leaving the action early after picking up an injury further exacerbates their problems. Jose Mourinho admitted after the match that any hopes of finishing in the top four are now gone.
The general consensus is that Chelsea will eventually turn things around and that Leicester will eventually fade away, but the evidence on display on Monday night shows no signs of either happening any time soon.