After an encouraging yet draining performance mid-week, Chelsea again try to give Frank Lampard his first victory as manager Sunday when he makes his Stamford Bridge debut against Leicester City.
(Potential Starting XIs)
“Pride. I’m proud to manage this club. I have been back to Stamford Bridge a couple of times since I left here as a player and was lucky enough to have really good support,” Lampard said at his Friday press conference about his first home match. “It’s going to be an emotional, special day for me but that’s just for me. The most important thing for us is trying to get the three points and that’s what I am really worried about.”
The Pensioners suffered a chastening 4-0 loss at Manchester United last Sunday, yielding two goals two minutes apart in the second half. Lampard’s team, though, showed plenty of resiliency in pushing Champions League winners and Premier League runners-up Liverpool to penalty kicks following a 2-2 stalemate after 120 minutes Wednesday.
Tammy Abraham’s miss in the fifth round consigned the Europa League champions to defeat in the UEFA contest in Istanbul, but Lampard found plenty of positives ahead of this contest as he occupies the coach’s box at Stamford Bridge for the first time as Chelsea boss.
“I respect Liverpool and they had chances in the game but it was clear to me that we were the stronger team,” Lampard told Chelsea’s official website after his team fought back to score an equaliser during extra time through Jorginho’s penalty. “We had some bad luck at times and maybe some bad finishing which we need to be more clinical with but my overall feeling from the game is one of pride in the team performance.”
“I don’t like losing, I’m a terrible loser and we all are at Chelsea. We wanted to win this game but we were unfortunate so I’m happy with the players. If that’s a sign of what we can do this season – and we will get better – then it’s a really good sign.”
Lampard rotated only three players from last Sunday’s defeat, but the two in attack – Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic – made convincing claims for at least more playing time from their new boss. The pair had a neat interplay that resulted in the veteran Giroud scoring Chelsea’s first goal, and the 20-year-old United States international looked comfortable on the wing.
Lampard also gave midfielder N’Golo Kante the freedom to push forward, with Mateo Kovacic providing coverage with Jorginho as the midfield shield in his 4-2-3-1 formation. Kante responded with the kind of two-way play that had been missing for long stretches last term under Maurizio Sarri and fueled his rise to stardom first at Leicester City and then with Chelsea in winning consecutive Premier League titles.
“We know how important he is to this club and we’re delighted to have him,” Lampard told The Sun about the France international. “And you saw the difference he made tonight.”
Leicester City (0-1-0) take to the road for the first time after starting their season with a cagey scoreless draw at home versus Wolverhampton last Sunday. VAR correctly came to the rescue for the Foxes, ruling out a goal scored by Leander Dendoncker that hit the arm of Wily Boly, but Brendan Rodgers was heartened by the defensive effort that left keeper Kasper Schmeichel with few moments of trouble.
“What’s most important for us is we got the point on the board [vs. Wolves] and we take that. It’s a clean sheet for us, so defensively that was good,” Rodgers told LCFC.com while singling out centre back Caglar Soyuncu for praise. “Çağlar was very good. He’s a good defender, he’s aggressive, he’s filling big shoes, but we always felt we would give him an opportunity.
“He’s a young player and he’s playing alongside a top-class centre-half in Jonny [Evans] and Jonny will help him in his positioning in the game.”
While Soyuncu and Evans did well repelling Wolves’ in-form strike pairing of Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota, the offence lacked a cutting edge in putting a solitary shot on target. Leicester did create one other quality chance, but Jamie Vardy was unable to latch onto Youri Tielemans centering pass in the six-yard box.
“We just need to improve with the ball and take more care with our passing,” Rodgers said, “That then allows us to affect the final third that bit more. Overall, I was pleased.”
The Leicester boss reported no injury concerns, which means he could retain his starting XI for a second consecutive match. Vardy has four goals in 10 career games against Chelsea, but three have come in the last five matchups.
The Foxes ended a seven-match winless drought (0-2-5) at Stamford Bridge last season with a 1-0 victory courtesy Vardy’s strike in the 51st minute. Leicester have gotten a result in three of their last four trips to Chelsea (1-2-1) and have held the Blues without a goal for 190 minutes there since Victor Moses capped a 3-0 victory in the 2016-17 season.
Odds and Ends, per Ladbrokes:
To Win: Chelsea 8/11, Draw 13/5, Leicester City 19/5
Both Teams to Score: Yes 4/5, No 10/11
Over/Under 2.5 Goals: Over 17/20, Under 20/23
First Goal Scorer — Chelsea: Abraham 7/2; Batshuayi and Giroud 4/1; Pedro 9/2; Pulisic 11/2
First Goal Scorer — Leicester City: Vardy 9/2; Iheanacho 7/1; Perez 10/1
Anytime Goal Scorer — Chelsea: Abraham 7/5; Batshuayi and Giroud 6/4; Pedro 15/8; Pulisic 9/4
Anytime Goal-Scorer — Leicester City: Vardy 15/8; Iheanacho 14/5; Perez 7/2
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Chelsea 1, Leicester City 1.
PREDICTED HALFTIME SCORE: Chelsea 0, Leicester City 1.
PREDICTED FIRST GOAL-SCORER: Jamie Vardy
OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 2 PREVIEWS
Arsenal (1-0-0) vs. Burnley (1-0-0)
Everton (0-1-0) vs. Watford (0-0-1)
Manchester City (1-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (1-0-0)
Wolverhampton (0-1-0) vs. Manchester United (1-0-0)
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