If Chelsea’s trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal on Saturday was meant to represent the first real test of the season for Roberto Di Matteo and his troops, then they certainly passed it with flying colours.
A 2-1 victory at the home of their arch London rivals went some way to answering the critics (including this particular punter) who claimed that although the Blues were top of the Premier League after an unbeaten start, they had been far from convincing and hardly looked like title-winning material.
Well, I’ll admit I was wrong about Saturday. As you can read here, I outlined my reasons for fancying the Gunners to inflict a first league defeat of the campaign on Chelsea and it was largely to do with the deficiencies that I see in the Stamford Bridge outfit.
A goalkeeper past his best, a creaking defence that looks vulnerable, a striker in Fernando Torres who seems unlikely to ever recapture the majesty of old and who is the club’s only realistic option to play up front, and a manager who is clearly not owner Roman Abramovich’s first choice and who is on borrowed time, no matter what results he may get between now and the end of the season.
Of course, I was made to look a bit foolish (not for the first time) by the time the 90 minutes were over on Saturday afternoon – Petr Cech made some great saves, Torres scored and the Chelsea back four coped with everything that Arsenal threw at them in the second half – but I still feel the questions I raised are valid points and I won’t be shouting from the roof tops that Chelsea are genuine contenders for the top honours at home and abroad this season after a win at an Arsenal side whose start can only now be described as average.
Domestic affairs are put on hold for the time being with Chelsea continuing their defence of the Champions League with a trip to Denmark to face Nordsjælland in their second Group E match and whatever imperfections exist in the Blues team, they should have enough to see off the Danes and pick up their first European win this term.
Di Matteo’s side are 33/100 to do just that, with Nordsjælland 15/2 long shots and the draw at 4/1, and this should be a comfortable night for the holders.
After a 2-2 draw at home to Juventus on Matchday 1, Chelsea need to ensure they make no mistakes at Parken and it is inconceivable they will. Nordsjælland may have won the Danish title last season (they are currently six points behind the leaders in third) but they lack the quality to hurt their visitors and the meek way in which they were beaten 2-0 at Shakhtar Donetsk last time out suggests Chelsea have little to worry about.
If Chelsea are professional they will get the job done easily and I’m going to assume that they will do just that and the 3/2 that the Blues emerge victorious by a scoreline of either 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 is the bet.
The Blues have scored in all but one of their last 16 away games in the Champions League and only once in those fixtures have they netted more than three times. And as I expect them to keep a clean sheet against limited opposition, that 3/2 looks like a fine punt.
Recommended bet: Chelsea to win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 @ 3/2
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