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Aug 21, 2014

Leicester fear a reality check at Chelsea

Kasper Schmeichel celebrates during Leicester's 2-2 opening-day draw with Everton -- but Nigel Pearson's men will do well to achieve a similar result at Chelsea.

The ever-bullish Nigel Pearson claims he doesn't fear Saturday's trip to Chelsea, but then you would hardly expect the Leicester boss to concede to nerves, especially after an encouraging 2-2 draw with Everton on opening day.

However, Foxes fans know a reality check could be in store at Stamford Bridge, especially after watching Jose Mourinho's stars make Burnley look like a Sunday league side at Turf Moor on Monday night.

- Jacobs: Leicester fight a good sign

Ultimately, points against any of the big four are a bonus, so even a cricket-score defeat won't define whether Leicester survives. Former Crystal Palace and Reading manager Steve Coppell once told me that all relegation-threatened teams -- whether they admit it or not -- run through the fixture list and plot their route to 40 points.

Assuming Pearson has done this, Chelsea versus Leicester will surely have a giant zero scribbled by it. The Foxes essentially have nothing to lose, except pride (and of course three points, but I digress ...)

Staying up for newly promoted teams is so often about momentum -- using the form and winning mentality from the previous promotion campaign to get points on the board quickly. That's why the draw with Everton was so vital and that's what concerns me about Leicester's early run of fixtures. After Chelsea, City host Arsenal, travel to Stoke and then face Manchester United at the King Power Stadium.

Then comes a comparatively easy run (Crystal Palace, Burnley, Newcastle, Swansea and West Brom), but heads may have dropped by then if City can't grind out at least another point first. The bad news is Leicester have won just one Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge (2-0 in 2001). Fortunately, though, Chelsea's only rout came back in 1994, when a John Spencer brace helped them to a 4-0 triumph. Since then, four of their five home wins in the Premier League have been decided by a single goal.

More recently, the pair have met twice in domestic cups. The 2012 FA Cup quarterfinal saw Fernando Torres (or the "Spanish Ade Akinbiyi," as I like to call him) end a 24-game drought as Chelsea won 5-2.

Meanwhile in the 2007 League Cup, Leicester, led by unfashionable caretaker Frank Burrows -- a sort of anti-Jose Mourinho, clad on the touchline like a character from "Only Fools and Horses" -- held a 3-2 lead with three minutes left, only for Andriy Shevchenko and Frank Lampard to score late on.

I said before the season started that Leicester boast a strong midfield, but their two top players, Matty James (shin) and Danny Drinkwater (hamstring), are both out of Saturday's game, so it is going to be really tough to compete in the centre of the park.

Andy King will come in and offer a threat going forwards but the club's leading midfield goal scorer isn't known for his defensive discipline. Leicester could desperately do with Argentine destroyer Esteban Cambiasso for this fixture, who played under Mourinho at Inter Milan. But even if his prolonged transfer does go through, the 34-year-old is unlikely to be available for selection in time.

It's not all bad news, though, with new signing Marc Albrighton and forward Jamie Vardy nearing full fitness. Both are capable of causing Chelsea problems, although only the former is likely to start.

Perhaps Albrighton can "do a Steve Guppy" and fire Leicester to a miraculous point. In 1999 that's precisely what the ex-Foxes winger did, courtesy of a sensational curling effort which all but mathematically extinguished Gianluca Vialli's side's title challenge.

That's the beauty of the Premier League and what makes it far more competitive than La Liga: no side can be taken lightly, so a point for Leicester (or even better) isn't entirely out of the question. Swansea proved that last weekend at Manchester United.

The more pessimistic Leicester supporters will be bracing themselves for an embarrassing defeat but Pearson could just mastermind an upset. If he doesn't, he can always drown his sorrows afterwards with a glass of Jose's finest vintage, and hopefully pick his brains for some survival tips in the process.

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