Sunday 15th May – 15:00 – Stamford Bridge
With the title race wrapped up and the battle at the bottom concluded, there’s little to play for on the final day of the 2015-16 season, so I thought why not honour the unbelievable champions Leicester City? The new trophy holders visit last year’s winners Chelsea, who they have to thank for winning them the title after the Blues drew 2-2 with Tottenham making the Foxes un-catchable at the top of the table. Claudio Ranieri’s (who was sacked by Roman Abramovich in 2004) men celebrated their glorious triumph with a 3-1 win over Everton last weekend, and can end the campaign with a maximum points tally of 83, 42 more than last season when they finished 14th. Chelsea meanwhile have showed Leicester what not to do a year after winning the league, as an astonishing fall from grace has left them ninth going into the final day (their lowest league position in 20 years), which is as high as they can finish with a maximum of 52 points, 35 less than 2014-15. They conceded late on to draw 1-1 with Liverpool in midweek, and haven’t won in their last three games. Guus Hiddink will take charge of the West London club for the last time with Italy manger Antonio Conte coming arriving at Stamford Bridge after Euro 2016. The fact that at the start of the season Chelsea were 13/8 to win the league and Leicester were 5000/1 according to SkyBet shows quite what an unbelievable nine months it’s been. It’s been a crazy season and at around 5pm on Sunday, it will be all over 😦
- Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has recovered from illness in time for the final game of the season, whilst Branislav Ivanovic could return from a groin problem
- However, Diego Costa (hamstring), Loic Remy (groin) and Kurt Zouma (knee) are out and John Terry is still suspended.
- Eden Hazard likely to keep his starting spot in the number ten role after maintaining his recent good form against Liverpool in midweek.
- Midfielder Danny Drinkwater is available after suspension but Robert Huth completes a ban for pulling the hair of Marouane Fellaini.
- Top scorer Jamie Vardy is expected to play despite suffering cramp in his hamstrings last Saturday as he continues to fight for the golden boot.
- Claudio Ranieri may want to give fringe players such as Demarai Gray, Andy King or Gokhan Inler rare starts.
The Key Battle: John Obi Mikel vs Jamie Vardy
John Obi Mikel’s Chelsea career looked almost over before Christmas, but Guus Hiddink’s arrival has seen the Nigerian become a regular again, and he even played at centre-back during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool in midweek due to Kurt Zouma’s injury and John Terry’s suspension.
Unless Hiddink picks Branislav Ivanovic if he is fit, Mikel is set to continue there for the final game of the season which has been dismal for Chelsea’s defence that was so tight last season.
The Blues have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 league fixtures, whilst they have conceded 52 goals in the league this campaign, their worst defensive record for 19 years since letting in 55 in 1996-97.
Unfortunately for them, they are coming up against a determined Jamie Vardy on the final day. With 24 strikes, the Englishman is one goal behind compatriot Harry Kane in the race for the golden boot after scoring twice against Everton last weekend.
He could have had a hat-trick if he hadn’t missed a penalty, but the 29 year old will be keen to add more silverware to a campaign where he has featured in the PFA Team of the Season, won the Football Writer’s Player of the Year, broken the record for the most consecutive Premier League games scored in and of course lifted the league trophy. Quite a campaign for Vardy, who was playing on non-league four years ago.
He opened scoring when the two teams met in December, and in fact has scored the first goal in 12 Premier League games this season, more than any other player.
Chelsea wins = 51 / Leicester City wins = 25 / Draws = 29
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea (14th December 2015)
Leicester City returned to the top of the Premier League and increased the pressure on Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho with victory at King Power Stadium. Jamie Vardy’s 15th goal of the season put Leicester ahead before half-time and Riyad Mahrez’s brilliant curling strike just after the break sealed the win for Claudio Ranieri’s side. Chelsea substitute Loic Remy pulled one back but Leicester survived in relative comfort to move back ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table. The reigning Premier League champions, in contrast, lay just a point off the relegation zone in 16th place with Mourinho fighting for survival. [Full BBC report]
Guus Hiddink: “In the last two months, everyone was writing them [Leicester] towards the title – usually you get an implosion in the squad. Surprisingly they reacted very well, without fear, they enjoyed the moment – it was well managed. That’s quite good.”
Claudio Ranieri: “It’s difficult to say what I’ve learned. Of course a lot of things but these things are in my mind and maybe now the computer chips are working and have put everything in the right position to get out next season. To say what I’ve learned is difficult. Let me relax and think about what happened this season.”
The Referee – Craig Pawson
- Last Premier League game: Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United (7th May 2016) – 1 yellow card, 0 red cards
- Last Chelsea game: Chelsea 2-0 Scunthorpe United (10th January 2016) – 2 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Leicester City game: Leicester City 1-0 Newcastle United (14th March 2016) – 0 yellow cards, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 38 / Yellow cards = 117 / Red cards = 3 / Penalties = 5
Stat of the Match
Leicester are guaranteed to finish the season with the best home and away records in the division, whilst Chelsea have won just five home games this campaign, only Aston Villa have won less.
Where Can I Watch It?
The game isn’t being shown live on TV on Sunday with Sky making the battle for fourth place a priority, but you can listen to the game on BBC Radio Leicester from 1pm. The highlights will then be on the final Match of the Day of the season at 10:30pm that evening.
My Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Leicester City
Chelsea won’t want to end a disappointing season with a 13th league defeat, and I think they’ll just about be able to keep a relaxed Leicester side at bay. That doesn’t mean the Foxes don’t care, and you can expect Claudio Ranieri’s side to be fantastically professional right until the end. I’m going for goals from Pedro and Jamie Vardy in a 1-1 draw.