Chelsea v Tottenham – Sat 12.45pm SS1
“We just seem to have lost our way, we’re not playing with the same fluency,” said Harry Redknapp after watching his side snatch a late draw at home to Stoke on Wednesday.
Harry’s downbeat words and Tottenham’s down-turn in form will offer encouragement to Roberto DiMatteo. Or whoever is running the show at Chelsea these days. That result may have ended Spurs’ three game losing-streak in the league but with their title dreams over, they are now in danger of losing out on a top four finish. A tentatively resurgent Chelsea are poised to pounce.
The two sides meet at Stamford Bridge this Saturday and a win either way will have a big impact on this season’s Champions League qualification battle. A win for Chelsea brings them within two points of fourth placed Spurs and will certainly shorten the 6/4 price on the Blues to finish in the top 4. A win for Spurs and they’ll have an eight-point cushion to relax on with just eight games to go.
As the graph above shows, Chelsea have long been odds on to achieve a top four finish. Only after a four-game winless run in the league at the end of January and start February did that price move to evens and longer.
Robert DiMatteo has talked of his confidence of supplanting one of Spurs or Arsenal in that top tier but even a Chelsea win at 17/20 this Saturday leaves a lot of work to be done. Champions League qualification is a must at Stamford Bridge but Champions League progression may prove a distraction between now and the end of the season.
There has been a noticeable consolidation of efforts on the pitch since Andre Villas-Boas was fired. Whether it’s down to DiMatteo or the senior players coming together of their own accord, Chelsea have the talent and, more importantly, the experience to deal with the pressures that lay ahead.
Can the same be said of Spurs? As impressive as some of their play has been this season the players have nowhere near the level of experience the Chelsea players possess. Only William Gallas and Louis Saha have any practical experience winning the Premier League with two titles each. Gallas of course won both of his at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea on the other hand have a squad full of players who have lifted at least one league crown with the club. There’s also a couple of Spanish World Cup and European Championship winners added in to the mix now too.
Spurs have the points in the bag but as we enter squeaky-bum season where experience is king, Chelsea are all set to push themselves into the top four and make a mockery of the 6/4 price now on offer.
Norwich v Wolves – Sat 3pm
Whatever Wolves owner Steve Morgan was expecting to happen by sacking Mick McCarthy, it hasn’t happened. Unless he was expecting the club to spiral even faster towards relegation. After opening his tenure with a rousing 2-2 draw, it’s been three straight defeat with twelve goals conceded and no goals scored for Connor. Norwich are on a five game winless run but they’ll fancy ending that with a home win over Wolves at 8/11.
Sunderland v QPR – Sat 3pm
Martin O’Neill’s north-east revival has started to stutter a little with just one win in five league games. Mark Hughes’ London revival has been stuttering from the start but their morale-boosting comeback win over Liverpool could spark off a positive run. The Londoners are 3/1 to land another shock win.
Swansea v Everton – Sat 3pm
Another few wins for the Swans and Brendan Rodgers will be managing England at Euro 2012. Swansea are a tough side to beat at the Liberty Stadium but gritty Everton will be happy with the draw at 9/4.
Arsenal v Aston Villa – Sat 3pm
There’s nothing like a run of positive results to gloss over a season of under-achievement. Arsenal have found some resolve and a string of come-from-behind wins means they now look certain to qualify for the Champions League. Aston Villa are closer to the bottom than is comfortable and an Arsenal win at 4/11 isn’t going to help matters.
Bolton v Blackburn – Sat 3pm
Who’d have thought this crazy idea of giving a manager some time would actually work? Steve Kean is in the process of proving everyone wrong as he hauls Rovers clear of danger with three wins and a draw in five games. Bolton will be boosted by the good news on Muamba and this has an entertaining draw written all over it. 2-2 at 10/1 perhaps.
Liverpool v Wigan – Sat 3pm
Liverpool can’t even look forward to playing at home after their midweek embarrassment. Anfield has proven a frustrating field for the home side and if they’re finishing remains at the standard we’ve seen all season, desperate Wigan could land a useful point at 4/1.
Stoke v Man City – Sat 5.30pm ESPN
Stoke aren’t the most entertaining team to watch but they sure are effective. City will spend the afternoon trying to break down Pulis’ back ten but they showed against Chelsea that they can come through in a pinch. City to win at 8/13 but it won’t be easy.
West Brom v Newcastle – Sun 4pm SS1
It’s not like a Roy Hodgson side to be good away but not so good at home but in this season’s West Brom team we have one. Newcastle got back to winning ways against Norwich midweek and with a decent away record they’re value at 2/1.
Man Utd v Fulham – Mon 8pm SS1
It’s that time of the season. United may not play well enough to beat Fulham but they probably will anyway.