After seeing off Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League on Thursday night (hardly a surprise – I predicted as much here), Chelsea have been dealt arguably the worst draw they could have got in the quarter-finals by being paired against Rubin Kazan.
For those of you not up on your geography, Kazan is about 300 miles away from the moon and Chelsea are scheduled to go there a couple of days before they are due to play Tottenham in what could be a crucial clash in the top four chase.
Between now and then, Chelsea have some very winnable league fixtures against West Ham, Southampton, Sunderland and Fulham, and if they can claim something like maximum points from that lot, even a loss to Spurs may be redundant.
What the Blues don’t want to do is to start drawing games they should be winning and letting leads go as they have done for two thirds of a curious campaign.
A ten or twelve point haul from this quartet of fixtures will set them up nicely for a tricky last dozen in which – as well as Spurs – sees them travel to Liverpool, Manchester United and relegation-threatened Aston Villa in the penultimate match.
Between now and the end of the campaign Chelsea could be involved in up to as many as 18 games in all competitions and when games come that thick and fast, it’s not easy.
All of which is a very elongated way of saying that they must beat West Ham on Sunday.
Sam Allardyce’s plodding middle of the table long ball merchants aren’t much use, and with just three wins and nine goals scored on the road all season, this is exactly the sort of task in which Chelsea absolutely need to get the job done.
Rafael Benitez’s side should have some wind in their sails following the comeback against Steaua and a similar recovery against Manchester United in the FA Cup and it’s vital they start with that momentum against the Hammers.
Sundays after Europa League duty are notoriously slow burners and that will suit Allardyce and his gang of doormen down to the ground.
Last time on the road they beat Stoke 1-0 in what could loosely be described as a football match, but before that it was eight defeats in nine and rarely do they actually try to defeat the opposition when away from Upton Park.
Once again they’ll play for the draw so the ball is in Chelsea’s court to get on with it. A couple of home wins on the bounce and a decent result at Old Trafford has lifted some of the tension and apprehension around Stamford Bridge and I reckon Chelsea will do as expected.
bwin’s 3Way football betting market has them at 17/50 with West Ham a distant 7/1 and the draw 4/1, and honours even is about the best the visitors will get.
As long as they start at a tempo I can see the west end boys doing the east end guys with Eden Hazard playing a key role.
The Belgian winger has upped his game after a slight mid-season lull and it’s easier to catch mist than the £32 million man at the minute.
He pretty much retired Steaua’s right back on Thursday night and with enough ball, he could easily do likewise to Guy Demel or whoever else Allardyce enlists to stop him.
Hazard is 7/5 to find the net at any point and 11/2 to score first or last. Also in with a shout of goals will be Fernando Torres. The Spaniard was like a man possessed after netting against Steaua and if Benitez starts his compatriot I can also see him getting amongst it.
If West Ham can stifle Chelsea to start with then the half-time draw followed by a Chelsea win will come into play at 7/2, yet I’ve got a funny feeling Chelsea have a performance in them and you can nearly double your money at 37/20 that they’ll win both halves.
That said, it is unlikely to be plain sailing – the Blues have conceded in seven of their last nine matches at the Bridge, with only Brentford and West Brom failing to register in this run.
With this in mind, I’m going for a Chelsea win as part of a multiple correct score of 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 to give me plenty of levity – especially at 29/10.
New customers registering with bwin are entitled to a free £20 bet, and sticking that on the Chelsea 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 multiple will bring you in a tasty £78.
That’s what I’ll be on this weekend and in case you think I’m talking absolute balderdash, I’ll take this opportunity to tell you that my sixth sense in Chelsea games has predicted spot on results in the last two times I’ve previewed them.
What you waiting for?
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