As another crazy domestic campaign comes to its conclusion, Chelsea have the comfort blanket of UEFA Champions League football confirmed heading into the final day of the English Premier League season.
Maurizio Sarri has guided The Blues to at least fourth place at the first time of asking, along with achieving a Carabao Cup, and imminent, UEFA Europa League final.
His side travel to The King Power Stadium, welcomed by Brendan Rogers’ Leicester City, who despite their recent run of form, have missed out on European football next term.
In their last meeting, The Foxes had another at the helm, as Claude Puel outfoxed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, succumbing The Blues to a first home defeat of the season and Leicester City’s only victory there since 2000.
Before the clubs commence in battle, we have taken a look at three players to have featured in both the blue of Chelsea and Leicester City over the years.
Frank Sinclair (Chelsea 1990-1998, Leicester City 1998-2004)
A Londoner at heart, Frank Sinclair turned down offers from Arsenal and Wimbledon to join the West side of the capital. A year after signing professional, Blues boss Bobby Campbell threw Sinclair into his senior side against Luton Town at the end of underwhelming 1990/1991 season.
There was nothing disappointing about his debut; Chelsea honourably came back from 3-0 to draw 3-3, playing 45 minutes a man down. It appeared he had reached his peak of excitement far too soon, as Sinclair was shipped off to West Bromwich Albion for a loan spell that last just three months; in that period he received a nine-match ban and £600 fine for accidentally head-butting a referee.
With little to cheer about at Chelsea until the late 1990’s, Sinclair received a slice of self-recognition, earning the Chelsea Player of the Year award in 1993.
Now an established regular, primarily at left-back, Glenn Hoddle took over as manager, implanting new systems and tactics which took Sinclair to centre-half. However, Hoddle’s new regime rocketed The Blues downwards into a relegation scrap. On the bright side, he and Sinclair managed to make the FA Cup final, facing Manchester United at the old Wembley Stadium; on the darker side, they fell to a 4-0 defeat.
Sinclair racked up 47 appearances in all competitions during the 1994/1995 campaign, yet his most successful in a Chelsea shirt came a couple of years down the line. He revenged the FA Cup loss to United by beating Middlesbrough to the trophy in 1997 and was then reunited with Boro 12 months later in the League Cup final. Sinclair scored in the 2-0 win, signing off in style as it was to be his last outing as a Chelsea player.
Leicester City signed Sinclair for £2 million, clearly for his fortune at the national stadium; The Foxes lifted the League Cup in 2000, with Sinclair amongst their ranks. His luck did not last long, Sinclair building up an unwarranted reputation for scoring own goals. Of the five he put into his own net, two standouts in the memory: one against former employers Chelsea, the second a seemingly simple back-pass against Middlesbrough that went horribly wrong. He went through relegation and promotion to the English Premier League with Leicester City, before he was let go in the transfer market in 2004.
Mark Schwarzer (Chelsea 2013-2015, Leicester City 2015-2016)
Arriving from Australia, the 6ft4 goalkeeper had already made a sizeable impression in England before becoming a Blue in 2013. He’d been instrumental in Middlesbrough’s mad dash to the UEFA Cup final, eclipsed by reaching the last stage of the UEFA Europa League with Fulham in 2010.
Schwarzer set a remarkable record of reaching 500 appearances in the top division, the first non-British or Irish player to hit such a landmark. An eye-opening statistic must’ve caught Chelsea’s attention, acquiring his signature from their West London rivals on a free.
Although his stay was short lived, Schwarzer showed no signs of slowing down, laying down memorable moments in the process. At the tender age of 41, he became the oldest UEFA Champions League debutant, keeping a customary a clean sheet against Steaua Bucuresti, a third in three games for the Australian.
His four decades on the planet served him again, representing The Blues in the English Premier League as their most senior player and the eldest to ever pull on a Chelsea strip.
Schwarzer’s greatest contribution for Chelsea came in a fixture that was remembered for one singular moment: 27th April 2014, Chelsea blew the title race wide open with a definitive 2-0 victory against Liverpool at Anfield, the day of Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip that cost him and his team mates a winner’s medal. What will be glazed over is the pair of saves Schwarzer made in the second half to protect his clean sheet. In doing so, he reached 150 shutouts, a milestone obtained by just two other keepers.
Leicester City looked to Schwarzer as experienced cover for Kasper Schmeichel, playing on just eight occasions as The Foxes fought their way out of dropping into the Sky Bet Championship. Just 12 months on, Claudio Ranieri had masterminded arguably the greatest fairytale in footballing history. Unfortunately, Schwarzer had made no league appearances, making him ineligible for a winners’ medal.
Dennis Wise (1990-2001, Leicester City 2001-2002)
Dennis Wise rightly wrote himself into Chelsea folk law, playing 445 times for The Blues, their fifth highest appearances maker, along with the second most coveted captain.
Originally a wideman, Wise was quickly converted into a central midfielder, a move which ultimately defined his career. His presence was also felt by the opposition, and even his teammates, finishing the 1991/1992 campaign as Chelsea’s top scorer (14).
It was Hoddle who handed him the armband, leading out the side including Sinclair to the FA Cup final against United, the outcome a sore one. Wise had a reputation for ill-discipline which may have tarnished the memory in sections of his profession, briefly stripped of his captaincy for an off the field incident.
Wise returned to lift the FA Cup in 1997, the same outcome occurred in the League Cup in the next term, setting up Sinclair’s opener with a fantastic cross. His and Chelsea’s silverware cabinet sustained its growth, reigning over Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup; on the downside, his disciplinary issues would not go away, causing Chelsea’s captain to miss no fewer than 15 games in 1998/1999.
Turn the attention to the English Premier League and Chelsea had achieved their highest finish since its invention in 1992, thereby securing a ticket to the UEFA Champions League, a campaign which The Blues exited to Barcelona in the semis.
Add another FA Cup to Wise’s collection, the 1-0 win against Aston Villa in 2000 in which the midfielder was named Man of the Match. This, followed by a Charity Shield triumph, would be the last the Chelsea faithful would see of Wise; ironically, it was Ranieri who sold Wise to Leicester City in 2001.
There was no comparison with his contribution on the field, playing on just 17 occasions and scoring once. It was Wise’s actions off the field that brought back unwanted memories, a bust up with Callum Davidson during a pre-season tour the icing on an undesirable cake.
By Nathaniel Kay