It’s been a typically eclectic season so far for Chelsea, but how many sides would want to be in their position of challenging for two pieces of silverware and a Champions League spot?
With such a brutal schedule in recent weeks, even Rafa Benitez’s harshest critic must begrudgingly serve him up some praise for the way he’s shuffled his pack, and a trio of back-to-back home wins have set the Blues up nicely for a frantic finale to the campaign.
The middle one of those three wins came against Rubin Kazan in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final last Thursday, and Fernando Torres’ late header has given the European champions a bit more breathing space to take into the decider.
That 3-1 win over Kazan means Benitez can select his starting 11 for the second leg with half an eye on Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City, but Chelsea’s recent away record dictates that he won’t be able to stick all of the stiffs in.
The Blues have won just two of their last ten on the road and I can’t see them improving on that statistic in Russia.
Chelsea have been pretty dire in their two away tussles in the Europa so far – a scrappy 1-0 win over Sparta Prague was followed by a 1-0 defeat at Steaua Bucharest – and with the game half won, I’m expecting another grind at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Kazan need at least two goals to progress and will need even more if Chelsea register themselves. However, I can’t see the Blues going toe to toe to nullify the away goal and instead, I reckon this will be the sort of away-day European performance you used to see during the ’80s.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Kazan won the game narrowly with Chelsea still progressing, and bwin’s 3Way football market is also struggling to separate the sides.
Chelsea as pegged as slight favourites at 6/4, with Kazan not far off at 7/4 and the draw nicely priced at 9/4.
Given that the Blues need to stitch the game, the half-time goalless draw at 33/20 is well worth investigating and you can treble your money at 2/1 on there being under 1.5 goals in the 90 minutes.
I’m banking on this being all square at the break, and if you agree, have a look at the half-time/full-time market, where draw/draw is 4/1, draw/Kazan is 21/4 and draw/Chelsea is a healthy 5/1.
Kazan aren’t prolific scorers themselves and with Chelsea likely to rest the influential Juan Mata, I can also see them struggling to make a breakthrough.
It’s 3/4 that both teams will score in the match and I wouldn’t touch that in terms of profitability.
If you do think both will score, then 1-1 is great value at 21/4 and you can also get 23/20 that either side will win by a single goal.
As a spectacle, I’m not particularly looking forward to this clash, but I’m sure Chelsea will get the job done and that 1-1 final score seems a cracking bit of business.
The other punt I’ve picked out is for Torres to score the last goal of the game at 6/1. The Spaniard will be on for the duration with no other striking alternatives and he’s shown enough in recent weeks to suggest he could pose the Russians plenty of problems.
New customers who open an account with bwin are entitled to a free £20 bet, and popping that on Torres to be last scorer at 6/1 could coin you in £140.
It is not too hard to imagine Kazan leaving the back door open late on as they chase the game and the former Liverpool man will be poised to strike if that situation materialises.