Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri have crossed paths a few times before, mostly in the Serie A. They have also ran on parallel paths and on serial paths over the past decade, accumulating a decent amount of shared history through their respective stints at Chelsea and at Inter Milan.
When Mourinho was in charge of the Nerazzurri, Ranieri led rivals Juventus and Roma and the two locked horns both on the pitch and in the media. But, as Mourinho would tell it, they have smoothed over their differences and have since developed a sort-of friendship and, of course, plenty of respect. Considering Ranieri's reputation for being one of the nicest men in football, incapable of holding a grudge (not even against Chelsea), that's not an unreasonable outcome.
The two of them will put friendship aside (at least until the final whistle) for Monday's dramatic clash at the KP Stadium, a top of the table clash like back in the spring, but with the protagonists having traded positions since. It's a weird situation, though not nearly as weird as Chelsea ending the weekend just one point above the relegation zone and Leicester ending it at the top of the league after 16 matches. Which is what would happen with a win from the home side.
Ranieri the lovable Tinkerman — Monaco still hurts a bit though — has never won a top flight league title in his managerial career. He's come close many times. He also has a couple second and third division titles. How wonderful would it be for him to finally win one with Leicester? Hopefully he'll be able to accomplish that without the three points on Monday still.
Date / Time: Monday, December 14, 2015, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: King Power Stadium, Leicester, England
Referee: Mark Clattenburg — Clatts is back for the third time already this season (and the 28th time in his now 11-year career). We won the first (3-2 away to WBA) and lost the second (3-1 at home vs. Liverpool). So the away side has scored three goals in both of those games. He also refereed this exact same fixture last year, which Chelsea won 3-1. So, three goals it is then coming up for Chelsea. Thanks, Mark!
Forecast: Cloudy, drizzly, cool.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBCSN (USA); Star Sports 1 / HD 1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra (USA); Star Sports (India)
Leicester City team news: A key component to any title challenge is a short injury list and the Foxes count just two of minor impact in Ritchie De Laet and Matty James. De Laet, expected out until the new year, lost his place as first-choice right back to Danny Simpson back in October anyway, while James has been out since May with an ACL tear.
Those three, plus Danny Drinkwater are all former Manchester United prospects who had left that youth paradise in search of playing time and career — a story not uncommon in Chelsea-landia as well — and are now having the season of their lives at the top of the Premier League. Speaking of people having ridiculous seasons, we are all familiar with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez by now, but at the heart of Leicester's defense, we'll find a familiar face as well, former Chelsea man Roberth Huth! The 31-year-old giant German was given his Premier League debut back in 2002, at age 17, by none other than Ranieri himself. Funny how these things work out sometimes.
With Spurs' loss on Sunday, Leicester are now riding the longest unbeaten streak in the Premier League. The 5-2 home loss to Arsenal eight games ago remains their only defeat in the league in fact, though they also lost in the League Cup to Hull City in a penalty kick shootout.
Chelsea team news: In the 19 games since meeting in April, just prior to Chelsea clinching the title, Leicester have lost just the once. Chelsea have lost nine and won just six. It truly is a massive divergence of fortunes. But a win here would go a long way towards putting all that nonsense behind us. We may not be winning the title this year and we'll have to be very lucky to finish in the top four, but languishing towards the bottom of the table is just ridiculous and more and more inexcusable with every passing day.
The Blues count just one minor injury in Radamel Falcao, and he even he may be available. His status is highly inconsequential either way. I'd expect Mourinho to keep the faith with the same group who played so well against Porto and maybe, finally, tally three points in impressive fashion in the Premier League.
Previously: Ramires' excellent finish with the weaker foot was just one of the highlights from April's meeting.