Chelsea emerging from slump, showing signs of clicking

LEICESTER, England — Chelsea deepened Leicester City‘s relegation fears and increased the heat on Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers with a comfortable 3-1 win at the King Power Stadium in the Premier League on Saturday.

Goals from Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Mateo KovacicPatson Daka had equalised for Leicester in the first half — sealed Chelsea’s third win in a week to extend their revival. And with Leicester dropping to two places above the relegation zone, their day was made worse by defender Wout Faes being sent off for two yellow cards late in the second half.

Rapid reaction

1. Chelsea emerging from their slump and beginning to click

Graham Potter has been taken to the depths of despair during his brief reign as Chelsea manager, but this win at Leicester suggested that he and his team may finally be emerging from their monthslong nightmare. The Blues have now won three games in the space of a week — and qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals — after winning just one of their previous 11 fixtures.

The dominance of their victory at the King Power was underlined by also having two goals disallowed for offside against the struggling home side.

With Potter once again able to deploy his favoured 3-5-2 formation, Chelsea looked in control from the start, and they went ahead in the 11th minute when Chilwell struck a left-footed volley to score against his former club. Leicester responded well and had their chances, equalising through Daka’s 39th-minute strike, but they regained control when Kai Havertz made it 2-1 with a lobbed goal four minutes into first-half stoppage time.

That goal enabled the visitors to dictate the play even more, and their big-money signing began to shine. Loanee Joao Felix was solid in the first half before being taken off at the interval, and Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk both impressed before Kovacic made it 3-1 on 78 minutes.

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Chelsea had been so poor during their woeful midwinter run that Potter looked to be on borrowed time as manager, but maybe the board’s patience in the former Brighton & Hove Albion boss is now bearing fruit.

There were clear signs of progress and of a team coming together in this win. A top-four spot looks beyond them, but if they can build on their revival, a top-seven finish and perhaps even a run to the Champions League final could yet be on the cards.

2. Rodgers feeling the heat as Leicester face relegation fight

Rodgers was subjected to chants of “We want Rodgers out” as Leicester slumped to their 16th Premier League defeat this season — a loss that leaves them just one point above the bottom three. All managers know that their grip on a job is only truly strengthened or weakened by results, but when supporters begin to turn, it usually accelerates the beginning of the end.

Rodgers knows this better than most having been a top-level manager for more than a decade, but the former Liverpool and Celtic boss has undoubtedly been forced to work in tough circumstances at the King Power in recent seasons. He has seen star players such as Harry Maguire, Kasper Schmeichel and Wesley Fofana all leave without being properly replaced, and a lack of new signings last summer has resulted in this season’s struggles.

Despite winning Leicester’s first-ever FA Cup in 2021, Rodgers has seemingly run out of credit with the club’s fans, who now fear relegation to the Championship.

Rodgers said before this game that keeping Leicester up this season would be one of the biggest achievements of his career, so he clearly feels he has been up against it this season. Having been in charge for four years now, though, Rodgers will also know that he is running out of time to extend that stay for a fifth year.

3. Maddison crucial for Foxes’ survival hopes

The King Power Stadium held its breath when James Maddison fell to the ground following a late challenge by Fernandez on 58 minutes. With the Leicester midfielder clutching his foot in agony, the prospect of a bad injury would have been hugely damaging for his club’s survival prospects.

In the end, the 26-year-old was able to return to the action, despite still clearly being troubled by the injury.

Leicester are now in such a dangerous situation at the wrong end of the table, though, that they need Maddison on the pitch even if he isn’t 100 percent fit. He is their best player by some distance and the only one capable of creating the chances to score the goals Leicester desperately need to convert.

At times against Chelsea, it was like watching a lead violinist trying to play with local band in a garage, with Maddison too often on a different wavelength to his teammates. Despite an injury-hit season, he has managed nine goals in 19 Premier League games and registered five assists, so his importance to Rodgers’ team is obvious.

If Maddison can help keep Leicester up, it will probably be his final contribution for the club, with a move to bigger and better things seemingly only a matter of time for the England player.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Kai Havertz, Chelsea. The Chelsea forward was at his classy best at the King Power. Great passing and movement, but also scored with a stunning lob to restore his team’s lead.

BEST: James Maddison, Leicester City. Leicester need Maddison to stay fit if they are to avoid relegation. Stands out a mile as the best player in the team.

BEST: Enzo Fernandez, Chelsea. The Premier League’s most expensive player is growing into his role at Chelsea and he dominated the midfield alongside Kovacic. Lucky to avoid a booking for bad foul on Maddison, though.

WORST: Harry Souttar, Leicester City. The Leicester defender was fortunate to escape a yellow card, or even worse, for a crude late challenge on Mudryk in the second half. Too cumbersome as a Premier League centre-half.

WORST: Wout Faes, Leicester City. Not only does he look like former Chelsea defender David Luiz, he also has the same reckless defensive mindset as the Brazilian. Sent off for two yellow cards, with his second foul — on Carney Chukwuemeka — worthy of a red card on its own.

WORST: Ricardo Pereira, Leicester City. Booked for a bad challenge on Fernandez, but escaped punishment for an even worse foul on Felix earlier in the game.

Highlights and notable moments

It’s saying something that it’s hard to determine which was more impressive: Fernandez’s scooped ball over the top or Havertz’s first-time lobbed finish. Two beautiful displays of technique.

After the match: What the players/managers said

Potter: “It’s been a really positive week for us. Three wins: a determined win against Leeds, an important victory against Dortmund in the Champions League and then to back it up with a victory here away from home in the Premier League says a lot about the developing spirit, developing togetherness we have at the club.”

Rodgers: “I thought it was very harsh on the players at the end. … What I take great encouragement from is the spirit of the team, they kept fighting, they kept working and I think we were unfortunate to lose the way we did.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

– Chelsea have now scored multiple goals in consecutive games for the first time since a five-game stretch between Oct. 1 and Oct. 16.

– Chelsea snapped a streak of 24 matches without scoring three or more goals in any competition.

Up next

Leicester City: The Foxes will travel to west London in a week when they take on Brentford for a Saturday afternoon Premier League showdown.

Chelsea: Chelsea will return to the home comforts of Stamford Bridge on Saturday, when they host Everton in the Premier League.


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