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Leicester City

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PETR CECH
Cech left Chelsea last summer after eleven years and many trohpies

Petr Cech believes being crowned Premier League champions this season will be the beginning of a new era of glory for Chelsea and that that the wait for this year’s success has been too long.

Cech, who has largely been second choice goalkeeper behind Thibaus Courtois this season after a ten year spell as being Chelsea’s number one, says that winning the league on Sunday will push the latest group of Chelsea players to greater things.

“This one is hopefully the start of a new era, another generation of players, because there is only me, JT and Didier left from the team who have been here for the last decade.

“You can say this is a new Chelsea generation. Hopefully we will win the title on Sunday and this team will continue to grow.”

Cech has been the subject of fervent transfer speculation following his spell on the sidelines and it is now generally accepted that he will leave Stamford Bridge this summer with PSG and Arsenal among his suitors.

However, despite his lack of chances  Cech still feels he has contributed to the team’s success and that the five years without the Premier League is far too long.

“It’s always nice to be there and make a contribution to the club’s success. At certain stages of this season, we have all contributed with moments that help us to be where we are.”

“The last title we won was back in 2010, so it has been a long time.”

Cech played in Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Leicester City and win the title with three points against Crystal Palace.

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Following Chelsea’s recent win and the remaining Champions League spots essentially decided, one will find much more competition between the teams at the bottom of the table.

At a glance, the bottom 7 seven teams enter the final month in some form of crisis: Newcastle, Hull City, Aston Villa, Leicester City, Sunderland, QPR and Burnley. Their survival hopes will be analysed below, followed by a prediction of how the bottom of the table will look like at the end of the month.

Newcastle: Despite being the current leader in the relegation battle, they have an interesting final four games that could be at best, profitable, or at worst make things more awkward for everyone. They start off away against Leicester City, who have shown great form in recent weeks. They then face West Brom, who will most likely fight for a win to completely ensure their own safety, as they will struggle to pick up any points from Man United, Chelsea or Arsenal. They will then be going away to yet another combatant, QPR, before finishing against West Ham, who will do them a favour if they beat Burnley and Aston Villa on their way to St James’ Park.

Hull City: Currently on a 2 game winning streak, the Tigers are somewhat unlucky to facing Arsenal at the start of their six-game barrage, where teams such as Sunderland may be able to steal points from a fatigued side. They’ll want to hit Burnley hard the following game in order to recover any lost goal difference, as their final games against Tottenham and Man United, still fighting to ensure European competition, won’t be easy.

Aston Villa: While they start off against the mid table Everton and West Ham, they will need as many points as possible prior to their game against Southampton, who will not relent in their chase for Europa League football, before ending their premier league campaign against a Burnley side who may or may not already be relegated on the day. Like Wigan two years ago, they are tasked with winning the FA cup against a top four side whilst fighting relegation. Perhaps they will be able to do better than Wigan, who were relegated upon lifting the cup.

Leicester City: Having not being able to take advantage of their game in hand against imminent champions Chelsea, the Foxes remain deeply rooted in the battle, starting off against a worried Newcastle and a Southampton side that will look to go on a winning streak after fighting their rivals for Europe, Tottenham, for a point. However, Leicester seem to be blessed with having a key say in the battle with matches against Sunderland and QPR, who are highly likely to drop points against the top 8 teams they will face.

Sunderland: Despite having a game in hand, their final games will be anything but easy. Their gap of three points could easily close when they host European hopefuls Southampton before going away to Everton. They then host currently in form Leicester City (ignoring the recent loss to Chelsea, where they were the better team in the first half), which will probably be the relegation blockbuster, given their current positions in the league, before two cruel away fixtures against a most likely fatigued Arsenal side that they may be able to steal a point from and the ever-consistent Chelsea.

QPR: I don’t know if it’s possible to make life any harder for Chris Ramsey’s men. Following a most likely fall at Anfield to a Liverpool side looking to prove themselves after a loss to Hull City and get into Europe, they go away to Man City before hosting a Newcastle side that can’t afford to lose, all before facing Leicester City, who are unlikely to take pity on them after a pressure filled game against Sunderland.

Burnley: Despite residing at the very bottom with the worst goal difference in the league, they still have a realistic chance of coming 17th, given their generally nicer final matches in comparison to other potential relegation survivors. Since they were able to beat Man City and draw against Tottenham a few weeks back, perhaps they could hope to grab some points away at West Ham and, more importantly, Hull City, before facing Stoke City, who can mathematically just about sneak into the Europa League – as long as the four teams ahead of them fall on great misfortune. They then face Aston Villa, who may or may not have to go all out to ensure they stay in the top flight.

After speculating over the final month of the season, the predicted final places are as follows:

14th: Newcastle (or potentially West Brom)

15th: Leicester City

16th: Hull City

17th: Aston Villa

18th: Sunderland

19th: Burnley

20th: QPR

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Jose Mourinho has warned against celebrating Chelsea’s title success too early in the wake of his side’s 3-1 win at Leicester City, a win that mean they are just three more points away from winning the league.

Many Chelsea supporters will arriving at Stamford Bridge on Sunday believing the title is secure, but the Portuguese believes it is wrong to adopt that attitude, saying they haven’t won the trophy yet and if anyone wants to celebrate they should do so for the League Cup victory in February.

“I cannot touch it, we need to win. We need two or three more points so I would say we need three points to be completely safe,” he said.

“I think we all had it in our mind to try to do it at Stamford Bridge. Today, the great motivation was exactly that.

“Stamford Bridge, they can’t celebrate yet. If they want to celebrate they have to celebrate the Capital One Cup.

“I hope they don’t go there to celebrate, I hope they go there to play the match with us and push the team.”

 

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Sky Sports pundit and Manchester United legend has dismissed claims that champions-elect Chelsea are boring and claimed that only winners are remembered.

Neville, who spent his whole career at Old Trafford where he won several Premiership titles, was commentating on Chelsea’s 3-1 win away at Leicester City when he praised the Blues style of play earlier in the season and used his own experience to emphasise the point.

“It’s absolute nonsense,” he told Sky Sports. “People called the Newcastle team of 1996 with Kevin Keegan exciting but they were exciting losers; nobody remembers them now.”

Manchester United famously chased down Newcastle United who had a 12 point lead in the 95/96 season to deny them the league title. Many at the time considered Newcastle to be the better side.

Neville continued:

“The fact of the matter is that people remember winners. People will remember this Chelsea team. They were exciting earlier in the season, the style was good.

“They have hit a blip in terms of the rhythm in their game and what you would call ‘football form’ in the last couple of months but their run of results is fantastic and that’s all that matters, as far as I’m concerned. You’re never going to go through a full season [playing] brilliant.

“The rest of the league has been poor. It doesn’t say a lot about the rest of the league that they’re going to get an easy ride at the end. It’s a poor reflection on the other teams that are chasing them or supposedly competing with them.”

Chelsea were jeered off the pitch by Arsenal ans after the 0-0 draw at the Emirates on Sunday, thus ensuing a wider debate about the aesthetics of football and whether the team at the top of the table has a responsibility to entertain as well as win.

Last night’s result means they will claim their first Premier League title in five years with a win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

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TERRY

Chelsea have gone thirteen points clear at the top of the table after an impressive 3-1 victory away at Leicester City which means one more victory will see them crowned Premier League champions.

Chelsea started slowly with the home side taking the initiative early on, despite not creating any clear chances. There were brief moments of danger in the first quarter-of-an-hour when Leicester City appeared  to set their sight on goal but were let down by the first touches of their forwards.

The champions-elect first opening came on fifteen minutes and did so courtesy of a quick sprint with the ball from Willian who, with the on-running Ramires slightly too far ahead- pulled it back to Drogba whose mishit troubled nobody. It was sign that Chelsea were getting into the rhythm, however, and sight on goal came just a minute later when, from more orthodox approach play, Fabregas made a brilliant pass through the centre of the home defence, lobbing the ball over the heads of everyone to Ramires whose cut back reached no one in Chelsea colours.

The general play from Chelsea began to improve but the home side were still a threat, particularly from the wings- on a number of occasions John Terry had to hook the ball away from the near pot area when crosses threatened the goal. For their part, Leicester were quick to get players behind the ball when Chelsea were attacking. Fabregas and Hazard, Chelsea’s two main sources of creativity this season, found it hard to find space for their team mates even if their individual play was fine. A scrap in the penalty area followed Konchesky fashioning an attempt on goal from a deep cross on the right which Cech was able to make the save if not turn it around the post, but Leicester did take the lead a few moments later when Azpilicueta slipped and failed to clear a pass into the box from the left hand side which gave Mark Albrighton the easy task of passing the ball into the left hand corner.

It was a goal that Chelsea deserved to concede, such was their sloppy football in the first half. The team appeared too static and the moments of improvement were sporadic and never threatening. When the second half began, the deficit vanished within three minutes when a rejuvenated Chelsea played with far greater intent and drive. It was Drogba who got the Blues level, collecting a cut back from Ivanovic and bringing back memories of years gone by when he finished coolly into the same corner of the goal that Chelsea had conceded in at the end of the first period. That preceded a flurry of chances that they did not take, one from the old Ivorian, who found himself in a better position than he did when he scored but shot over, and another when Fabregas couldn’t quite connect to a brilliant run and cross from Willian which he probably didn’t expect to reach him.

Following that the game fell into a pattern of both sides taking it in turns venture forward in search of a third goal. To their credit Leicester did not sit back in search of a valuable draw in their struggle against relegation. Having won their previous four games their were confident to keep up the pressure that served them so well in the first half, but their wanderings into the Chelsea penalty area didn’t threaten the away side a great deal. Willian had a shot that curled over the bar, and it was the Brazil international who was one of Chelsea’s most threatening players as he often ran from one penalty area to the other.

The breakthrough for Chelsea came from an old source when Terry reached the ball first, as he has done so many times in his long career, after Cahill’s flick on header was saved from Fabregas’ corner with ten minutes to go. Ramires increased the lead just a few minutes later finishing brilliantly with his left foot from twenty-five yards out, and that point the Chelsea players knew the game, and perhaps the title, was won, such were their celebrations. It might not be mathematically certain yet, but tonight’s win means another three points will mean they are champions of England for the first time since 2010.

 

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Wasilewski, Huth, Morgan (c), Albrighton, King, Cambiasso, Drinkwater, Konchesky, Vardy, Ulloa.

Unused substitutes: Schwarzer,  Hammond,  Wood, Kramaric.

Manager: Nigel Pearson

 

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Fabregas, Hazard; Drogba.

Substitues: Courtois, Filipe Luis,  Ake,  Oscar, 

Manager: José Mourinho

 

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

 

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Chelsea are looking to close in for the title as they need just five points to be crowned Champions this season. They can either be won or dropped by Arsenal.

Chelsea take on Leicester City who look for safety and avoid relegation so what happened in the first half

Chelsea took quite a while to get into the rhythm as Leicester kept applying relentless pressure on the blues affording very little space but Chelsea have managed to get back into it and claim the possession of the ball most of the time

Most of the thirty minutes have been played in Leicester City’s half as Chelsea took full control but controlling isn’t winning and the moment the Blues are 1-0 down as Matic missed a tackle in  midfield allowing Ulloa to slide Vardly through the left

It could prove to be a massive goal for the foxes and Chelsea need to back into it really quickly

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Injuries dictate the team selection once more as Mourinho has decided to play it safe with the benching of Courtois and Oscar, leaving Costa off the sheet entirely while Leicester’s starting eleven is unchanged in their fight to escape relegation.

Although a point will not necessarily have either team reach their campaign goal, it will be valued by a Leicester side without the striking experience of David Nugent, as well as a Chelsea side who are perhaps privileged to have PFA player of the year Eden Hazard while notable members of the attack force battle with injury issues.

The line ups are as follows:

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Wasilewski, Huth, Morgan (c), Albrighton, King, Cambiasso, Drinkwater, Konchesky, Vardy, Ulloa.

Substitutes: Schwarzer, De Laet, Hammond, Mahrez, James, Wood, Kramaric.

Manager: Nigel Pearson

 

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Fabregas, Hazard; Drogba.

Substitues: Courtois, Filipe Luis, Zouma, Ake, Mikel, Oscar, Cuadrado.

Manager: José Mourinho

 

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Venue: King Power Stadium, Leicester, UK

Kick Off: 7:45pm BST

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NIGEL PEARSON LEICESTER CITY
Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson

Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson spoke ahead of tomorrow’s clash at King Power Stadium.

A game that promise to be spectacular, with both teams fighting for something really important: the Premier League title for Chelsea, the permanence for the Foxes.

Pearson’s side are in a magnificent form – in this moment they won’t be relegated- but he knows that tomorrow night it won’t be an easy game, as he states about Chelsea:

If they play a counter attack game they are very strong. If they play a very offensive game they are very strong,’ the Leicester boss said”

“They have the capabilities of being able to deal with most situations that are thrown at them”

“They are an exceptional team. We expect them to be at their best as I am sure they will expect us to be at our best”

Pearson is concerned about some injuries that can affect his squad for tomorrow’s clash:

“We have picked up some injuries in games, like Nugent and Schlupp. We will have to assess them to see if they are available for this game or the weekend”

“On top of that we have Vardy’s situation having to have injections. We have other knocks. It is not too bad a turnaround getting the players ready for this game, but then of course it becomes the situation of the game being earlier on Saturday having played on a Wednesday”

“Normally our games are played on a Tuesday but that is how it is. It is not a case of making a scene out of it. It is what it is. The considerations we will make will be based on what is right for Leicester City and that is”.

 

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Arsenal play-maker Mesut Ozil believes Sunday’s London derby between his side and Chelsea will be memorable despite it being relatively inconsequential in the title race.

Chelsea go into the game 10 points clear of their hosts at the top of the table. A win will mean all the have to do is defeat Leicester City on Wednesday to be champions of England. Arsenal’s recent challenge for the title has come as a surprise to many after it was believed they would settle for fourth spot this season. They are second due to a very good run of form in the past weeks as well as Manchester City’s collapse.

Whilst a few Arsenal fans are still retaining the slightest of hopes their team could overcome the deficit, Ozil described the chances of finishing first as “theoretical”.

“Even if we only have a theoretical chance of winning the Premier League, the meeting of the two teams with the most points of the league is something special.”

Ozil signed for Arsenal for over £40 million from real Madrid in the summer transfer market of 2013 and helped the club win the FA Cup last season.

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The visit of Manchester United tomorrow and the trip to Arsenal next week give Chelsea the chance to all but ensure that the Premier League trophy will be present at Stamford Bridge for the next 12 months.

A victory on Saturday evening will mean the Blues will extend the lead to ten points as Arsenal are busy with their FA Cup semi-final, and a draw will mean they have avoided defeat against one of the best teams in the country and one week closer to winning their first league title since 2010. A defeat would not be a disaster, but could make life considerably more difficult with difficult matches against Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Leicester to come.

Therefore, whilst it cannot be considered definitive, unlike the fixture in 2006, a 3-0 victory for Chelsea which gave them their second Premier League title, or as triumphalist as Chelsea’s 3-1 victory at Old Trafford in 2005 after they had secured the league, but it could be seen as a game where Chelsea’s title ambitions are either confirmed or damaged. With only seven matches left, a victory against Chelsea’s great rivals from the North could be crucial.

Chelsea have a good record against Manchester United, especially at home. Fans of the Blues remember with great fondness the victory in October 1999 when the Red Devils, fresh from winning the Treble the following season were dispatched 5-0 and dominated from the first minute to the last. More recently, important victories have included the 1-0 win in September 2004 – Jose Mourinho’s first league game as Chelsea manager- the already mentioned win the following season that secured the title, the 2-1 triumph with only two matches left to go in the 2007/08 season, courtesy of two Michael Ballack goals, and 1-0 win in 2009/10 when John Terry scored the winning goal 18 months after failing to convert the penalty which could have won Chelsea the Champions League. There have been disappointments in league matches against Man Utd as well- losing a three goal lead in 2012 late on is perhaps the most bitter, but the 3-2 defeat the following season, a game in which Chelsea had two player sent off, runs it close.

Chelsea are undefeated against United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. The 1-1 draw earlier on in the season was virtue of a stoppage time equaliser by Robin van Persie, but the fact that a draw at Old Trafford was a let down for Chelsea is testament to the shifting fortunes of the two clubs. Manchester United have not been close to Chelsea this season, but that does not mean anyone should take this game easily. Their relative weakness in midfield and defence is compensated by attacking options that would make any club jealous if only they were given better service- former Chelsea favourite Juan Mata included.

Similar things can be said of next week’s opponents, Arsenal. Their brilliant recent form- seven wins in a row- working parallel with Manchester City’s meltdown, has seen them emerge as Chelsea’s nearest rivals for the title.  Until recently, Chelsea had a terrible record against the Gunners, something which  began change when they were beaten at Highbury in the first all-English Champions League tie in 2004. Sub-plots await next week’s fixture at the Emirates, even more than tomorrow.

Cesc Fabregas, a former Arsenal captain, will return to his old ground as one of Chelsea’s key creative outlets, a title he proved he is worthy of in the October fixture at Stamford Bridge when a fantastic pass to Diego Costa secured the three points for the Blues and earned him a Man of the Match award. Regardless of the result tomorrow evening, next week’s fixture will be a challenge for Mourinho’s side. Arsenal not playing this weekend will make the slight advantage Chelsea have of playing a game less invalid, especially as the game Chelsea currently have in hand is against Leicester City, a team fighting for their Premier League survival at the bottom of the table.

Defeat in either game will leave Chelsea in danger of losing the title which they are so close to, something that will no doubt be in the manager’s mind when he selects his team(s). The approach to the game at home to Man City at the end of January, then considered a potential title decider, was clearly conservative with Chelsea, top then as now, settling for a draw after City equalised before half-time. It is likely that a draw in one, maybe even both, would be an acceptable situation.

The temptation is to want Chelsea to express themselves, to not fear tomorrow’s and next week’s opponents, but one must remember that both Manchester United and Arsenal have chased down similar deficits to the one Chelsea hold over the, and the experience of the Champions League this season- when Chelsea were knocked out by PSG in a tie the Blues really should have won- should be a careful reminder pf what can happen when quality opponents are not given the respect they deserve, which Man Utd and Arsenal, despite their flaws, obviously are. Chelsea have been stung on more than one occasion this season when complacency has been allowed to override professionalism, the most important thing to do until the end of the season is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

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