Aston Villa v Chelsea
Live on Sky Sports 1
Paul Lambert's team broke a four game winless streak with a 4-1 thumping of Norwich last time out to lift themselves up to 11th in the table. Ordinarily that would be well out of harm's way and while Villa are probably safe, six points is not a huge cushion with 10 games of the season to go. Encouragingly for Villa Gabriel Benteke has shown signs of life since the turn of the year with five scored in nine games, including a brace against the Canaries, after a long dry spell. But Benteke's campaign, like Villa's, will go down as a disappointment. The Midlands side went out of both cups early and have recorded just eight wins in the league - though they can claim Arsenal and Manchester City among their victims.
The Blues are now odds-on for the title after last weekend's 4-0 humbling of Spurs to assume a nine point advantage over Manchester City and seven over Liverpool and Arsenal (though that pair have a game in hand and City have three). Chelsea have lost just once in all competitions this year - at Manchester City in the FA Cup - and arrive at Villa Park on a three game winning streak in the league. Despite lacking a prolific striker, Jose Mourinho's team look the part and should kick on to win the league from here.
Fernando Torres, David Luiz and Ashley Cole - none of whom are regular starters - are unavailable for this. It shouldn't be a problem, though you imagine Mourinho will have one eye on Tuesday night's Champions League last 16 second leg clash with Galatasaray.
Mourinho's men are arguably skinny at 1.558/15 to win but there is little reason to oppose them and I'd rather be backing a Chelsea win in some way than praying that Villa can suddenly discover some much improved form seeming out of nowhere. For the record, Villa are 7.613/2 with the draw 4.3100/30.
How then to back the Blues at bigger odds than 1-2? I'm happy to ignore last weekend's result by stating that Chelsea don't tend to destroy teams and basing my bets around that assumption. Yes, the evidence from the last match suggests otherwise, but Spurs were in the match until Jan Vertonghen unluckily slipped and produced a horror backpass, while Younes Kaboul's red card has been rescinded which shows the penalty decision should never have been given. Once they were two goals down and reduced to ten men Tottenham gave up and a thumping was inevitable.
A look at previous results show an economical Chelsea side that do enough to beat the opposition without over-exerting themselves. Villa piled into Norwich last time out but have not been heavy scorers prior to that. Chelsea, with 13 clean sheets in 29 Premier League games, should be able to do this with minimum fuss. In the absence of liquidity in the win to nil market, the recommendation is to back a Chelsea clean sheet and to take a chance on draw/Chelsea in the Halftime/Fulltime market at nearly 4-1.
We're at the business end of the season now and you have to trust that Chelsea will get the job done.
Back a Chelsea clean sheet @ 2.35/4
Back draw/Chelsea HT/FT @ 4.84/1