Chelsea v Qarabag FK
Tuesday 12 September, 19:45
Conte to rotate for easiest group game
The Blues are back in the Champions League following a season in the European wilderness and it will be interesting to see how they get on this year. They couldn't have asked for much of an easier start and it looks like a fixture made for Eden Hazard to regain his match sharpness.
Antonio Conte will be pleased with how his side have responded since their opening day woes against Burnley as they have played Spurs, Everton and Leicester since - taking a maximum nine points.
Alvaro Morata has taken his fair share of the plaudits for that impressive run and rightly so. He is already proving that he is more than just a super-sub in an excellent Real Madrid team, and that's all without the creative influence of Hazard behind him.
Morata might have to sit this one out though as Conte has spoken of his intention of rotating his squad this season, now that they are back in Europe. The likes of Batshuayi, Drinkwater and Zappacosta could well start, but as mentioned above, Hazard, also looks likely to be given the nod from the off.
Fourth time lucky for Qarabag
The visitors to Stamford Bridge are Qarabag of Azerbaijan. They have already had to come through three rounds of qualifying to get this far, as they have dispatched of Samtredia, Sheriff and FC Copenhagen, to date.
Gurban Gurbanov's side are the reigning champions of their country as they won the Premyer Liga by 10 points. They have started this season off in fine style as well - taking nine points from their opening three games.
This is their first attempt in the group stage of the Champions League as they exited in the qualifying rounds in 2014, 2015 and 2016. It will be interesting to see how they get on against the big boys, but they could have hoped for an easier draw than Chelsea, Roma and Atletico Madrid.
I have no doubt that some of the big hitters will be steaming into the home win at odds of [1.11] but I don't think I could sleep at night if I tipped a 1/9 shot.
For those who like a big price, then the visitors are available to back at [50.0] - which is far shorter than what Luxembourg were for their recent trip to France. That match ended in a draw, and the draw in this one is trading at around the [11.5] mark.
I can't find any reason to oppose Chelsea, even if they played a weakened XI. What I will say, however, is that I don't believe that it will be the cricket score that some are predicting.
'Any Other Home Win' is as short as [2.9] in the Correct Score Market, which basically means Chelsea have to win and score at least four goals.
That doesn't represent much value to me, and I much prefer 3-0 at [6.6]. Qarabag won't want to be humiliated on their Champions League proper debut, so expect plenty of men behind the ball and not too much ambition.
Goal backers will be looking at this match as their banker and it will surely feature in many multiples at [1.53]. The under is [2.76] for those of that persuasion.
The fate of over 2.5 goals will almost certainly rest on how many Chelsea score. It's very difficult to imagine the visitors breaching the strong home defence, so you are almost taking 1/2 on the Blues finding the net at least three times.
They probably will - as evidenced in my prediction of a 3-0 win - but I wouldn't want to be taking the [1.53] about it.
2017/18 P/L (1pt each bet)