I really can’t work Chelsea out at the moment. At half-time against Leeds United on Wednesday night, I thought the soon-to-be-deposed European champions were on the verge of a full-scale implosion.
If they had fallen out of the Capital One Cup at Elland Road, the angst from their supporters would have been turned up to another level and I seriously think Roman Abramovich would have cut his losses and been on the lookout for another interim-interim manager.
As it was, they clicked into gear and made light work of the Whites in heavy weather and embarked on the trek back down south buoyed by a convincing victory which will instantly have soothed the disappointment of a wasted journey to Japan.
Talking of which, they were decent enough against Monterrey after looking good against Sunderland and Nordsjaelland, but those two wins were sandwiched by very poor showings against West Ham and Corinthians.
The Leeds rally has also put a different perspective on their upcoming fixtures over the festive period. Both Aston Villa and Norwich are sliding into form at the right time and Chelsea have also got a trip to nobody’s favourite away venue – Everton – before the year is out.
Most of the Blues’ main men looked lively in eventually overcoming Leeds and Rafa Benitez will also welcome back Ramires and Gary Cahill for Villa’s visit on Sunday afternoon.
Paul Lambert’s side are on a six-game unbeaten run themselves and rarely in living memory have things seemed quite so rosy around Villa Park.
Last time out, the Villans stole three points against Liverpool at Anfield but I watched that match and they could and should have been a couple down by the break.
Again, ifs, buts and maybes don’t count for much in this game and Villa will arrive at Stamford Bridge also knowing they’ve got a bit of previous in this part of town.
Last season Villa ran through Andre Villas-Boas’ quickly deteriorating side and the year before that they also drew 3-3 in a fixture which seems to be annually pencilled in around Christmas and new year.
However, bwin’s 3Way football betting market still has the hosts as overwhelming 17/50 favourites, with Villa a distant 7/1 and the draw 4/1.
The odds for the away win and draw are exceptionally good value if you fancy Villa to extend their unbeaten stretch to seven games and the away-draw double will still turn you over a decent return at 21/10.
My instincts are steering me in the direction of a decent Chelsea win, but how things pan out could have much to do with who gets the first goal.
The Blues have fallen behind in 14 games this season, with the Leeds turnaround being only the fifth time out of those instances that Chelsea have gone on to get anything from the game.
If Villa can strike first at 5/2 then they could take something, but if it’s Chelsea who break the deadlock I fear a bit of a pasting for the Claret and Blues.
Comedy Dave Luiz was at it again in midweek and if big Christian Benteke can rough him up I can certainly see Villa getting on the scoresheet, so make sure you get both teams to score on your accumulator at 4/5.
I’m going to have to lean one way or another and although Villa have a decent track record at Chelsea and are on a good run themselves, I think Benitez’s boys will discover their A-game and get the job done.
Having declared that both teams to score is a certainty, I’m going to have to go for Chelsea with goals and you can almost treble your money on the home win with over 3.5 goals at 9/5.
My other stock standard shout is a multiple correct score bet and if you do think Villa will be on target in a Chelsea win, then help yourself to an early prezzie courtesy of bwin by lumping on Chelsea winning either 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 at 14/5.
Happy punting and have a very messy and merry Christmas from all at Baines Towers.