So are Chelsea back in the title race? Were they ever out of it? Over the festive period they’ve taken two points off the gap between themselves and Manchester United and they’ve also got rid of the gaping goal difference column which stood in the Mancunians’ favour.
It’s three wins from three in the league, six from seven in all competitions and suddenly the Blues are looking organised, efficient and very effective.
bwin have pulled Benitez’s boys into 7/1 to win the league – their lowest price for a good few weeks – and at present they seem a better bet than a City side who I think are on the verge of total implosion.
But after starting off by giving Chelsea the big write up, we must remember that if they get beat at Everton on Sunday, the Merseysiders built on a pittance and managerial stability will be above them once again.
In the past, Goodison Park has been a bit of a graveyard for the Londoners, who are without a win there in five visits and have only posted one result in 90 minutes against Everton in the last nine meetings.
It was only when I had a proper look at the Toffees’ overall home record that I realised just what an inhospitable venue this is for visiting teams.
Since being beaten by Arsenal last March, Everton have won ten and drawn four from 14 in all competitions and if Chelsea can bring that run to a halt then people will sit up and take note.
However, even as impressive as Chelsea have been in the last few weeks, my initial inclination is that this will go one of two other ways with the home win priced at 19/10, the draw 9/4 and, surprisingly, Chelsea favourites at 7/5.
The Londoners don’t seem as flaky as they were under the 16-minute man and they’ll need to show such steel in the rancorous surroundings of Goodison Park.
Although Everton generally take points at home, it’s worth noting they have conceded in their last eight matches at their place but have countenanced that by scoring in 24 of their last 25 host fixtures.
It’s 31/50 that both teams will score in the match and I’ve quickly grown fond of the idea that this will evolve into a score draw.
I think both teams would settle for that and certainly the 1-1 seems value at 5/1, with the half-time/full-time draw a tasty 17/4.
The visitors have got enough in their locker to prolong the hosts’ wait for a home clean sheet but I also think David Moyes’ men will trouble Petr Cech and co enough to preserve their long scoring streak.
Under Benitez, Chelsea have generally been quick out of the blocks whilst Everton have demonstrated a proclivity to continually go behind.
Chelsea are 7/5 to score the first goal of the first half and you can find 31/10 on either side leading with the game being a draw and I think that’s impossible to pass up and my New Year’s Eve fund will be swelled by getting on that.
If you do fancy a result then I’d still be swayed by Everton again getting one over on their bunnies and 19/10 for the home win is good enough, but with both sides likely to score, Everton are 7/2 to win with over 2.5 goals in the game.