Welcoming 8,000 fans back to Stamford Bridge for the biggest crowd since the pandemic, Chelsea clinched a win crucial to their hopes of finishing in the Champions League places after a bundled goal from Antonio Rudiger and a penalty from Jorginho.
Kelechi Iheanacho’s strike 15 minutes from time made for a potentially nervy finish at the Bridge but Thomas Tuchel’s team saw the game out to leapfrog Leicester into third place in the league, one point ahead of their rivals heading into the final round of matches on Sunday.
With a game in hand, Liverpool are now lurking dangerously three points behind the Foxes and with a marginally superior goal difference.
Chelsea’s performance was one of vastly-improved energy levels from their tame showing at Wembley on Saturday, but still came tinged with concern – not least regarding the loss of Kante just after the half-hour mark.
The all-action midfield lynchpin was replaced by Mateo Kovacic, causing immediate consternation among the Blues faithful with the Champions League final against Manchester City looming in 11 days’ time.
The injury did not appear to come as the result of any contact, although the French World Cup winner has nursed hamstring and Achilles injuries this season, meaning the sight of him sharing a word with Tuchel before heading straight down the touchline immediately struck fear into Chelsea fans’ hearts.
Those scenes punctuated a first half of frustration for Chelsea, most evident in the luckless form of Timo Werner.
Werner’s woes in front of goal have become the hallmark of his maiden season at the Blues, and the hapless German forward suffered another 45 minutes to forget.
The 25-year-old was first denied a shout for a penalty when he went down in the Leicester box under pressure from Youri Tielemans, although referee Mike Dean blew for a free-kick against the Chelsea man.
Moments later, and Werner thought he’d broken the deadlock when he latched onto a poked Mason Mount throughball, finishing smartly past Kasper Schmeichel only to be met with the familiar sight of a raised offside flag.
The German’s first-half misery continued when he thought he’d scored after arriving at the backpost from a corner to bundle the ball over the line.
Wheeling off in celebration and launching into a kneeslide along the Stamford Bridge turf, Werner’s joy was yet again curtailed when the VAR replay showed the clear use of a hand as the ball made its way across the line.
“The first half was a bit like a mirror of the whole season for me,” the German would aptly explain after the match.
“Always close, then at the end not really. [But] when you are young and in the final of the Champions League it’s no problem.”
Just before the break, Chelsea player of the year Mount then produced a blistering burst past two Leicester players and into the box, crossing for Christian Pulisic but the American’s shot was steered just wide of the near post.
It was all pressure from Chelsea and the kind of reaction Tuchel would have wanted from his men after their limp showing at Wembley on Saturday, but without the breakthrough their dominance warranted.
Two minutes into the second half and the goal did arrive as defensive giant Rudiger turned home a corner with his knee after the ball had been inadvertently flicked on by a Leicester head.
It was a cathartic moment for the German and the 8,000 fans at Stamford Bridge as they took the initiative from Leicester in their top-four tussle.