Leicester - from champs to chumps
Leicester are reeling from defensive lapses and Ranieri's focus on Champions League
(Diego Costa 7, Eden Hazard 33, Victor Moses 80)
LEICESTER CITY 0
They must wonder where, and how, it all went so catastrophically wrong.
Five months ago, Leicester City sat atop the footballing universe as a beacon of the underdogs.
The world smiled on them, and with them.
Nothing appeared impossible or beyond their reach, except retaining the Premier League title.
Claudio Ranieri's over-achievers were never likely to take the defence of their crown into this season, and it looks like it will be a far more short-lived affair.
The last reigning champions to surrender in such alarming fashion, with eight points from as many games, also emphatically crashed and burned at Stamford Bridge.
Ranieri may wish to consider seeking counsel from his former Chelsea employers on how to avoid the hangover of triumph lingering in the weeks and months ahead.
But Leicester will require more than mere crisis management.
Attributing their shortcomings to the summer departure of N'Golo Kante, who lined up against rather than alongside them last night, is a mere decoy from the true root cause.
"Dilly ding, dilly dong", Ranieri's imaginary bell-ringing trick to maintain his players' focus, has been replaced by a lapsed concentration in what was once an unrelenting secret to their success.
The once-wily Foxes were undone from set-plays at Old Trafford in a 4-1 defeat last month and clearly those lessons continue to be ignored in the midst of their post-title hedonism.
Wes Morgan, previously an inescapable presence for opposing forwards, took leave of his senses to allow Diego Costa to ghost in unmarked at the far post during the early stages - a sight which would have been inconceivable less than 12 months ago.
Ranieri bears some responsibility for the slump in standards - building on the EPL's most improbable achievement has become secondary to the lure of the Champions League.
Too often he has been found guilty of prioritising Europe's elite club competition over Leicester's key stock in trade.
The visit of FC Copenhagen for the Group G clash on Wednesday morning (Singapore time) clearly preoccupied his selections at Stamford Bridge, as Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani were rested.
Mahrez's unceremonious benching ended a 36-game run for the reigning Player of the Year.
Without him and his fellow Algerian, the champions appeared more resigned to defeat than they have in previous high-profile encounters on their travels.
Tactical shortcomings are not the only area in which Ranieri has been heavily exposed.
His quirky persona was considered endearing as Leicester upset the odds, but it now serves as a symbol of ineptitude and bordered dangerously on parody.
The managerial guillotine appears far closer than it did when his players were afforded a guard of honour by their Chelsea counterparts at the end of last term.
Unlike his compatriot, Antonio Conte has no need to scour the bookmaking markets.
Even when the odds were stacked against the Italian, he continued to bet on himself and has begun to reap rewards far greater than anything of monetary value.
From the pressure of successive EPL defeats, his Chelsea side are again flying high and, with Jose Mourinho's highly anticipated return to Stamford Bridge next weekend, a run of back-to-back victories could not have been bettered timed.
A three-man defence has served him effortlessly in both title-winning success with Juventus and international exploits in charge of his native Azzurri.
That pattern looks set to follow even in the temperamental surroundings of west London.
It had already paid off early into his Stamford Bridge reign, overcoming the odds against Hull City prior to the recent international break and continues to do so.
He has even made a competent defender out of David Luiz, albeit still with the occasional hiccup, but it is more than backline stability which defines Conte's approach.
The hosts' dominance in both scoreline and statistics - with over 70 per cent possession in the first half alone - was indicative of their strengths under the new system. Intensity, rather than intricacies, is key.
Conte likened the search for an all-encompassing style to tailoring a suit.
After much searching, Chelsea appear to have finally found one which is a perfect fit.
When you concede a goal from a corner again, it is clear: you come to chelsea and your attention must be at the maximum. We made mistakes. Now we must react because we have the champions league next.
- Foxes boss claudio ranieri (above)
Ranieri: we missed kante
N'Golo Kante excelled against his former club and was deservedly named the Man of the Match in Chelsea's emphatic 3-0 win over defending champions Leicester City yesterday.
The 25-year-old Frenchman was at his swashbuckling best in midfield, as the Blues brushed aside the Foxes at Stamford Bridge.
"For me, it was a special game because I enjoyed Leicester," said Kante (above) after the game.
"To play against them is special as a Chelsea player. It's good for us. We needed three points and we won."
Speaking of his former midfielder, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri reflected: "We miss him. We know we have to react, play better and stay more concentrated."
The Italian joked he chose to forget the first half, as he endured a difficult day at his former club.
"I forgot the first 45, because they played so well and we conceded everything," said Ranieri.
"It was difficult. We change, after, our system to help the players.
"It does a little good. In the second half, it was much better."
Diego Costa scored his seventh league goal of the season after seven minutes and Eden Hazard struck a second before half-time.
David Luiz hit the crossbar with a free-kick before Victor Moses scored a late third.
Chelsea, the 2014-15 champions, now have five wins in eight Premier League games under manager Conte, who hailed the performance as the best under his management
"This is the best game for us," he told Sky Sports 1.
"I saw good commitment and I'm pleased for the players because, when you work very hard, it's important also to win and make a good performance."
Chelsea have switched to a 3-4-3 formation, which is benefiting the likes of Hazard who plays under the same system for Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.
The attacker said: "I play more inside the pitch. I don't stay wide.
"We play also this system in the national team for Martinez.
"We have more freedom even when we lose the ball, we can get the ball back. It's a good system for Chelsea."
Like Costa, Hazard dedicated his goal to absent teammate Willian who is in his homeland Brazil after his mother died.
"It's for Willi, Willian. He's back in Brazil. He lost his mother. We are thinking about him. I hope he comes back stronger," Hazard added. - PA Sport.