Sometimes when you’re assessing a football match as a punter, a price looks so big that you feel like Eamonn Holmes at an all-you-can-eat buffet: you just can’t leave it alone.
You look at it again and again, wondering if you are the only one that can see how much value there is, hoping that nobody else notices before deciding to quickly fill your boots.
And as I sit here looking at the odds for Chelsea versus Newcastle United, I can’t help but get that overwhelming feeling. Because if someone can tell me why Newcastle are as big as 11/2 to win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, then they are a better man than me.
I’m not sure what needs to happen for bookmakers to start taking Alan Pardew’s side seriously, but odds of 11/2 to beat Chelsea are bordering on the insulting and there are several reasons why you just have to have a go on what is a monster price.
The job that Pardew has done at the Sports Direct Arena has been championed for the best part of 12 months now, but it doesn’t make those claims any less valid.
The Magpies won eight times on their travels last term – only the top three could boast more victories on the road – while Manchester United were the solitary side who managed more away clean sheets than Newcastle’s tally of six.
Having washed his hands of the not-as-good-as-they-think-they-are disruptive influences who could boast egos even bigger than their pay packets (I’m looking at you, Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan) and replaced them with a string of brilliant signings on a fraction of the wages (Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse), the former Southampton boss has garnered a great team spirit to go with the obvious talent and his mixture of pragmatism and stardust brings the best out of his squad.
And with none of their star names prised away over the summer, the Toon are underestimated at your peril. It must be remembered that Newcastle finished fifth last season, one place and one point above Chelsea, and all the signs are that another tilt at the Champions League places will once again materialise.
With fellow top-four hopefuls Tottenham already beaten 2-1 last weekend, Newcastle can now set their sights on Chelsea. The Magpies won eight times on their travels last term – only the top three could boast more victories on the road – while Manchester United were the solitary side who managed more away clean sheets than Newcastle’s tally of six.
But this isn’t just about Newcastle, because I think there are plenty of reasons to oppose Chelsea at 12/25 (the draw is 16/5), despite the Blues gaining maximum points from their opening two Premier League fixtures.
Both of those wins, a 2-0 victory at Wigan on the opening weekend and a 4-2 win over Reading in midweek, have been characterised by two traits: some inventive and penetrative attacking play and some dodgy defending.
Chelsea’s pool of offensive talent isn’t in question – Eden Hazard is already living up to his reputation – but the Blues have looked leaky at the back since they returned from their summer break and it is only a matter of time before they leave themselves too much to do and come unstuck.
They nearly did just that against Reading, who led 2-1 until the 70th minute, and conceding goals has been a worrying trait since pre-season. Chelsea have let in 14 goals in eight games since regrouping for the summer and their only clean sheet, against Wigan, was a very fortunate one. Basically, I don’t trust the Chelsea back four to keep teams out, and if you keep conceding goals you will eventually pay the price.
Newcastle have the players to hurt Chelsea, who lack balance and a proper midfield shield, and the settled Toon can certainly avoid defeat (a whopping 31/20 chance) and are too big to ignore at 11/2 to do what they did last season and win at Stamford Bridge.
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