At face value Leicester City have two hopes of beating Chelsea on Sunday and progressing to the FA Cup semi-finals: Bob and no.
Only four of the last 16 quarter finals between top-flight sides and lower league opposition have been won by the side outside the top tier. Since 1998 only two Premier League teams have lost a home FA cup quarter final against lower League opposition (one of them being Leicester against Wycombe in 2001, but I’d rather not go into that if it’s OK with you).
Chelsea have reached the quarter-finals in five of the last six seasons, losing just once and to cap it all off, Leicester have never beaten Chelsea in the FA Cup and have lost all three of their last three trips to Stamford Bridge.
Frankly, you could argue the Foxes may as well not bother, but we all like a trip to London now and again and what’s the FA Cup for if it’s not the odd giant-killing? So, here are five reasons why Chelsea shouldn’t take victory for granted.
Leicester aren’t actually that bad
In many respects the two clubs are very similar. Both have mega-rich foreign owners, both have spent big bucks in the pursuit of success, both are trying to negotiate the choppy waters of a transitional season, both are some way short of where they’d like to be in the league because both have been inconsistent. So, both have sacked big-name managers. What I’m trying to say is this – Leicester can beat anyone on their day and conversely, Chelsea can lose to anyone (more or less). So the result of this game depends on which versions of the two teams turn up. If the Leicester which beat Norwich or brushed aside Birmingham plays the Chelsea which lost to West Brom or stunk out the place against Stoke, well then the result’s not a home banker.
Frankly, you could argue the Foxes may as well not bother, but we all like a trip to London now and again and what’s the FA Cup for if it’s not the odd giant-killing?
Leicester have nothing to lose
Nigel Pearson’s side have a slim chance of making the play-offs and given the choice, City would no doubt take promotion over lifting the FA Cup but with the final so tantalisingly close, going all the way would not be a distraction for the Foxes and could actually help their quest for promotion by building confidence and generating momentum.
Chelsea by contrast have their eyes firmly on the Champions League - both this year’s competition and qualification for next season. The FA Cup is last on their list of priorities by some distance.
If John Terry and Frank Lampard allow Roberto Di Matteo to make changes in any game it’s going to be this one. It’s also going to be hard for Chelsea to match the intensity of their efforts against Napoli. In that tie, they knew exactly what they had to do – score at least two goals and given the Italians’ attacking threat, probably three or four. The game with Leicester will be very different in tempo. It may be more like Chelsea’s aforementioned matches with West Brom (which they lost) Stoke (which they struggled to win) or Birmingham, who Leicester have just demolished in their last Championship game.
The extra 30 minutes against Napoli won’t help either, especially against a Leicester side which has had an extra day’s rest.
Leicester have Jermaine Beckford
Yes, you read that right. When he was signed by Sven Goran-Eriksson from Everton in the summer he seemed to symbolise everything that was wrong with the Swedes’ approach – an over-priced signing who lacked desire, yet Beckford has turned things round. Having scored just one goal before Nigel Pearson returned to the club, Beckford has scored ten since. And he likes the Cup - he’s the joint leading scorer in this season’s competition with five goals and has scored 14 goals in his last 15 FA Cup appearances. Those include the winner for Leeds in their tie with Manchester United two years ago as well as another two for Leeds in the following round against Spurs. He’s also grabbed a hat-trick against Forest in the third round of this year’s competition. And he warmed up nicely for the Chelsea match with a brace against Birmingham in the League on Tuesday night and let’s not forget his wonder goal for Everton against Chelsea at the back end of last season – he ran half the length of the pitch before casually chipping Petr Cech.
Beckford has turned things round. Having scored just one goal before Nigel Pearson returned to the club, Beckford has scored ten since.
And Leicester also have David Nugent
“What? Eh? Has he gone mad?” you’re thinking, but stick with me. Nugent, like Beckford, has a point to prove. Signed for Portsmouth by Harry Redknapp for £6m in July 2007 Nugent was almost immediately discarded by that superb man-manager who is no fucking way a wheeler-dealer, right? Rumours abounded that Nugent would leave Pompey for Derby County in the same transfer window he was signed in (makes you wonder how Portsmouth got into such a financial mess, eh?). But I digress. Nugent (who scored in his one and only game for England back in 2007) says his spell at Portsmouth severely dented his confidence but 13 goals in 32 games this season suggests he’s getting it back. He combined superbly with Beckford to grab the winner in City’s comeback win away at Norwich in the last round of the FA Cup. Like his strike partner, Nugent is perhaps a little unfairly branded as a Premier League failure. What better way to lose that tag than to stick it to the big boys in the FA Cup?
Back in the Martin O’Neill days Leicester twice lost in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge. The first of those games in 1997 was an infamously fractious affair. Predictably, convicted thug Dennis Wise came to blows with Leicester’s Steve Walsh (a man with more red cards than Vinnie Jones) and Chelsea won in extra time courtesy of a dubious penalty.
City fans took exception to this and referee Mike Reed had his car surrounded outside the ground. Danny Baker was sacked from Five Live after saying he could understand if Leicester fans hit referee Mike Reed. He then continued his “witch hunt” on Talksport saying Reed should be “thrashed from the grass like a grouse”. Quite right, too.
As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold.
Click here for more Leicester City stories
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook