Elsewhere, “this league” continues. Follow along here:
“Though I’m a Liverpool supporter, surely nobody can think that Trent Alexander-Arnold won’t be the England right-back for the foreseeable future?” asks Mike MacKenzie. “He can and will improve his defending skills but going forward nobody is even close to him.”
I’m not sure. He’s brilliant, no doubt about that, but if the opposition had a serious left-winger, I’d think very carefully about sticking Wan-Bissaka in. If I did that, I’d think very seriously about sticking Alexander-Arnold in midfield.
Brendan “Brendan” Rodgers says he’s putting everything into the cup competitions, and hopes the players will use their disappointing league cup semi defeat to wind them up. He wants to keep the freshness of his team, which is why he’s made a few changes, but his defence has been good so he’s mainly leaving that alone. He thinks Chelsea have outstanding players and notes two outstanding games against them in the league.
“Maybe a majority of the football in the Premier League is always rancid,” emails Chris Ross, “but it’s the 40,000 fans screaming at it, that gives a false impression. That and the focus on GOALS!”
Maybe the majority of all football is rancid, but it don’t find it tepid, as I have most of what I’ve seen so far. Hopefully the intensity will increase as the players get fitter and stakes get higher.
When men were “lads”.
Lampard hopes his team will produce a level of performance similar to that they produced midweek, lamenting his team’s inconsistency. He also says that playing City requires a huge physical effort, which is why he’s made so many changes, but expects a similar or even better show. He’s pleased to select Billy Gilmour, who is a talent, and expects Leicester to make it a good contest.
For those of us who are very old, this fixture means only one thing: one of the great robberies.
On BT, Robbie Savage is talking about Wycombe Wonderers. They’re so indecisive.
There are so many good, young English players around at the moment it’s absolutely ridiculous – in the 36 years I’ve been watching “this game” there’s never been anything like it. Gareth Southgate has so many players to choose from – at right-back, for example, he’ll have to spend the next 1- years picking between James, Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka. I actually think the delayed Euros will massively work in his favour, because almost all his key players are improving, and in a year it may well be impossible to leave out Bukayo Saka, Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden.
This should be a really good game. I say, this should be a really good game.
A few minutes ago, Arsenal nudged past Sheffield United, whose late goal was superseded by an even later goal. Read all about it here:
We saw what can happen when you make too many changes in yesterday’s execrable Norwich-Man United game, but Lampard has only made two in midfield and attack, so should get a smoother performance than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did. I’m really looking forward to seeing Reece James, who is a colossal talent, likewise Billy Gilmour, while Christian Pulisic is so full of confidence at the moment.
As for Franklampardschelsea, Frank Lampard makes six changes from the midweek win over Manchester City. At the back, Caballero, Zouma, Emerson and James come in for Kepa, Azpilicueta, Christenson and Alonso; in midfield, Gilmour replaces Barkley; while up front, it’s Abraham not Giroud.
Two interesting selections there. Leicester look far better balanced than they did the other night – 4-3-3 suits them, 4-4-2 doesn’t – and they haven’t even started playing yet. They’ll miss the injured James Maddison, but will be much better for having Youri Tielemans back, likewise Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez. I’d expect far greater speed and flexibility than we saw against Brighton.
Leicester City (a chilled-out, entertaining, 4-3-3): Schmeichel; Justin, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Ndidi, Praet, Tielemans; Perez, Vardy, Barnes. Subs: Ward, Morgan, Bennett, Fuchs, Choudhury, Mendy, Gray, Albrighton, Iheanacho.
Chelsea (a homespun, folksy, feelgood 4-3-3): Caballero; James, Rudiger, Zouma, Emerson; Kante, Gilmour, Mount; Willian, Abraham, Pulisic. Subs: Kepa, Alonso, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Pedro, Giroud.
Referee: Mike Dean (Yesssssssss!)
We’re all friends here, so we can be honest with each other: since the return of “this league”, its football has been almost uniformly rancid. It’s still great to have it in our lives, obviously – saving clubs and jobs is especially important, something fun to think about in quiet moments is especially restorative – but we’re about ready for some quality.
This afternoon’s encounter is one that, in normal circumstances, we’d be all over: two youthful, likeable, energetic teams, battering into each other after the classic knockout style. But in this instance, we don’t have a club what we’re going to get.
It’s strange really. We could ascribe the tepidness to the absence of fans, except when the Bundesliga restarted the games weren’t really like that. Perhaps the nature and style of English football means that the players are more reliant on external adrenaline, but in a game like this one, they need to find it within themselves.
Leicester need something desperately. They conceded late at Watford then were absolutely munting against Brighton – the wrong team, playing the wrong formation, wrongly – and know that a season which looked a certain triumph is now under threat.
Chelsea, on the other hand, are in a great place. They look sharp going forward and won very well in midweek, but more than that, there’s a sense that things are changing: the club want to be good again, and are prepared to spend the money that it takes to make that happen. The players want to be part of that, and know that if they don’t play well, someone else probably will.
We’ve talked ourselves into it haven’t we. This is going to be great!
Kick-off: 4pm BST