Foxes failing to reach usual standards
It’s somewhat ironic that Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers is being strongly linked with a move to Manchester United (speculation he has been at pains to play down) just as he is facing one of his most challenging periods as the Foxes’ manager. The East Midlands club narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification in each of the last two seasons, but this term they are already seven points adrift of the top four.
Leicester have won just four of their 11 league matches so far, and they are far from certain to qualify for the knockout phase of the Europa League. To make matters worse, the underlying data suggests that results are actually better than the performances warrant, with Leicester in the bottom six in the Premier League in terms of Expected Points.
There’s also an issue with the performances of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The Dane is usually a superstar for club and country, but if you look at Post-Shot xG figures from fbref.com (a calculation of how many goals the xG data suggests they should have conceded, minus the number of goals they have actually leaked), Schmeichel actually has the worst figure in the entire league. This is perhaps just a bad patch, or an extended statistical quirk, but it is concerning.
Poor defending remains a running theme. Leicester have gone nearly two months without a clean sheet, and that was against Millwall in the League Cup. In the Premier League, they have conceded twice in each of their last three home matches.
Midfield general Youri Tielemans is out with a calf injury, while Wesley Fofana, Marc Albrighton and James Justin are all still sidelined.
Tuchel can afford to brush off Burnley sting
Having watched his side dominate Burnley, only to walk away with a 1-1 draw before the international break, Thomas Tuchel wasn’t angry with his players for their profligacy. He knew it had been an excellent performance that simply didn’t have the matching result.
Chelsea remain three points clear at the top of the Premier League, and can be backed at 4.1 to claim the title (this writer tipped the Blues to do the league and cup double pre-season at 40/1), with Manchester City still the odds-on favourites.
Chelsea have conceded just four goals in 11 PL games, and only Liverpool have performed better in attack, with the Blues rattling in 27 goals. Their only domestic defeat was against the champions Manchester City, and Tuchel’s side are on course for the last 16 of the Champions League.
Impressively, Chelsea have scored a glut of goals without star striker Romelu Lukaku hitting top gear after an injury-hit start to the campaign. The Belgian has scored three goals in seven starts, but you sense there is much more to come. Chelsea have had 14 other goalscorers in the top flight already, which is a hugely impressive number.
There’s positive injury news, with Lukaku back in training, and returns on the cards for Timo Werner, Mason Mount and Marcos Alonso. The game could come too soon for Mateo Kovacic.
Chelsea are fair favourites
Given that Leicester are missing important players and are well below their best, Chelsea seem attractively priced in the Match Odds market at 1.834/5.
If you want to boost that price above evens, you could use the Sportsbook’s Bet Builder to back Chelsea to win and Under 3.5 Goals at 2.265/4. Ten of Chelsea’s last 12 Premier League victories have featured fewer than four goals. Chelsea have won 10 of their last 15 away games at this level, and only one of those victories featured more than three goals.
Lukaku to make perfect comeback
If Romelu Lukaku starts, I can see him causing problems for a rather flimsy Leicester rearguard that has badly missed the injured Wesley Fofana. He is 2.1411/10 on the Exchange to score at any time. Keep an eye on the team news, and if the former Inter striker starts, back him to find the net.
It’s also worth considering backing Reece James to have a shot on target at 13/10. The England international is averaging 0.45 shots on target per 90 in the PL, and has already scored four top-flight goals this term.