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Leicester City-Chelsea Preview
Held to scoreless draws in both of their recent cup ties, Chelsea look to find their shooting boots Saturday when they host Leicester City at Stamford Bridge.
While a second consecutive Premier League title is likely beyond the reach of the Pensioners (14-4-4), there are still three avenues available for silverware via the League Cup, FA Cup and, albeit a longshot, the Champions League.
Chelsea were forced into a replay in the third round of the FA Cup following their scoreless deadlock at Championship side Norwich City. Their first-leg League Cup semifinal and London derby at home against Arsenal on Wednesday ended with an identical scoreline in a cagey match devoid of many gilt-edged scoring chances.
Blues boss Antonio Conte did not seem all that frustrated with the latter result since there is still everything to play for in the second leg at the Emirates on Jan. 24, but it did mark the first time Chelsea had gone 180 minutes without a goal across all competitions under the Italian and the first time since back-to-back losses to Swansea City and Manchester City on April 9 and 16, 2016.
"The positive things were that we didn't concede and when you play a semifinal with two legs, to play at home and not concede is important," Conte said. "We tried to win and shot 20 times, we created chances to score but we didn't take them. We must be more clinical offensively, otherwise if you don't score and you are unlucky the game finishes as a draw.
"After Norwich, it's the second 0-0 in a row, we have to reflect on that and improve in the training session."
Chelsea have not gone scoreless in three consecutive matches since Nov. 20-28, 2012, when Conte's Juventus side rolled to a 3-0 win in group play in Champions League and the Blues followed with scoreless home draws versus Manchester City and Fulham - a span of 288 matches in all competitions.
Conte fielded a strong side for the first semifinal leg, making only two changes from the team that drew 2-2 against Arsenal last weekend, with Alvaro Morata coming closest to a goal on two separate occasions in the second half.
Leicester City (8-6-8) have settled nicely under Claude Puel and are currently in eighth place on 30 points with an outside chance of playing in Europe next season. Like Chelsea, the Foxes will be at home for a third-round FA Cup replay following this contest as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Jamie Vardy's old Fleetwood Town club Saturday.
In fact, the League One side ran play for most of the match and nearly snuck out winners when a deflected late shot hit the woodwork twice, the second time after Eldin Jakupovic touched it before smothering it near the goal line.
Vardy did not play due to a groin injury as the forward was one of eight regulars Puel held out in part due to the congested fixture list. The Frenchman was equal parts pleased and relieved there will be a replay at the Midlands following this contest.
"It was good to give some game time to young players like Harvey Barnes, but of course it was a minimum for us today to make the replay," Puel told Leicester's official website. "I picked a team that can win the game, knowing the fitness levels of my players after four games in 10 days. I think there is no excuse about this. We have had a good team on the pitch but it was not enough from the play."
The good news for Leicester is the draw coupled with their 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town on New Year's Day marked the first time they had posted back-to-back clean sheets this term. They had shipped 10 goals during a five-match winless spell (0-2-3) before knocking off the Terriers.
Chelsea have won four on the trot between the teams and are 11-1-1 in the last 13 across all competitions following a 2-1 victory in the Midlands in the reverse fixture Sept. 9. Morata and ex-Leicester City midfielder N'Golo Kante scored on either side of halftime before Vardy pulled one back from the spot shortly after the hour.
Leicester City's lone win at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era (1-3-8) in all competitions was a 2-0 victory Sept. 17, 2000, and Chelsea have outscored them 15-4 over the last six matches (5-0-1) in London.
Updated January 11, 2018