Premier League champions Chelsea play host to Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as they look to keep their faint title hopes alive.
The Blues trail runaway leaders Manchester City by 16 points, and anything other than victory will surely rule Antonio Conte's side out of contention for back-to-back titles.
Hector Bellerin's game by numbers vs. Chelsea:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 3, 2018
83% pass accuracy
4 tackles won
2 take-ons completed
Vital goal. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/WffKwWqjn4
Leicester have enjoyed mixed fortunes since Claude Puel took charge at the King Power Stadium in late October. The Foxes have lost three out of their last five Premier League matches, though his side did face stern tests against both Manchester United and Liverpool over the festive period.
The Premier League champions of two seasons ago laboured to a goalless draw against Fleetwood in the FA Cup third round last week, but cruised past Huddersfield 3-0 in their last Premier League fixture on New Year's Day.
The Blues come into this one as strong favourites against an opposition that they have failed to beat only three times in their last 15 meetings. The hosts won their corresponding fixture back in September, with goals from Alvaro Morata and former Leicester favourite N'Golo Kante clinching a 2-1 win.
These two teams put on a goalscoring clinic when they met in the then Carling Cup, back in October 2007.
The Blues were heavy favourites against a Leicester side playing in the Championship, and lacking any stability. The Foxes had parted company with both Martin Allen and Gary Megson within the space of two months, with Frank Burrows taking caretaker charge for this trip to Stamford Bridge.
The visitors got off to a dream start, against a strong Chelsea line-up boasting the likes of Frank Lampard, Andriy Shevchenko and Shaun Wright-Phillips, as Gareth McAuley glanced home from a Foxes corner.
The hosts had overturned the deficit by half-time though, with captain for the night Lampard scoring a quickfire brace. Against the odds though, Leicester fought back and two goals in five minutes from DJ Campbell and Carl Cort put the visitors on course for a huge upset.
As the game entered it's final stages, Chelsea's big stage experience showed through. First, Shevchenko levelled with just three minutes to go, before Lampard's stoppage time header squeezed over the line to spare the Blues blushes, sending the holders through to the last eight.
Chelsea's performances this season would probably see them in and around title contention more often than not. However, such is Manchester City's domination in the Premier League this season, the Blues most likely find themselves looking to strengthen their position in the top three as they look to secure automatic qualification into the Champions League group stages.
Antonio Conte's side have lost only once in their last 17 matches in all competitions, a slender defeat to West Ham at the start of December.
The Blues have kept six clean sheets in their last eight matches, but come into this fixture having been held at home by Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, and taken to an FA Cup replay by Norwich.
Claude Puel's side have struggled in recent games, despite a promising start under their new manager.
The home side face a tight turnaround after their 0-0 draw against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, though Antonio Conte will field his strongest possible side.
Ross Barkley is still recovering from hamstring surgery, with the £15m signing from Everton unlikely to earn a place in the matchday squad.
The visitors will be without skipper Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson, with both defenders struggling with hamstring injuries. Robert Huth remains sidelined with long-term injury, and is yet to make an appearance this season.
Adrien Silva is hoping to earn his first league start at the King Power Stadium, the £22m signing from Sporting CP having waited five months to make his Foxes debut after registration issues.
Islam Slimani will be hoping to retain his place up front for the Foxes, with
The home side have won eight out of their eleven home games this season, winning their last seven in a row at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues have scored thirteen goals in their last five Premier League home matches, and have a good recent record against the Foxes.
Leicester have enjoyed some good away form over the course of the season, winning three times in 11 matches, only losing four times.
With nailing down a secure place in the top three high on Chelsea's agenda, Antonio Conte's side are sure to take the attack to Leicester in an effort to overwhelm their weakened defence. Leicester's recent struggles make them massive underdogs, and the Blues are likely to walk away with maximum points if they make the most of their chances.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Leicester