Chelsea v Burnley
Saturday 12 August, 15:00
Singing The Blues at Stamford Bridge
It is very rare that the reigning champions start a title defence with such negativity surrounding the club, but that is the case for Chelsea, and the only surprise to me is that they are not bigger than [5.3] in the 2017/18 winner market.
On Saturday afternoon the Blues will take to the field without Diego Costa - broken up with via text message. Nemanja Matic - allowed to leave to the waiting arms of a former love. John Terry - traded in for a younger, but still unproven model. Nathan Ake - sent to the south coast for a second bite of the cherry.
If they were not enough, then Eden Hazard is out injured, as is new £40m signing, Tiemoué Bakayoko. It is not like Antonio Conte can call upon the services of all the promising youngsters who are employed by the club either - they are all out on loan.
So what are the positives for Chelsea? Alvaro Morata has signed from Real Madrid, and after scoring 15 La Liga goals in 1330 minutes last season, he clearly has plenty of talent. It will be interesting to see if Conte hands him a starting berth this weekend though, as Michy Batshuayi has featured more during pre-season, getting the nod in the Community Shield last week, for instance.
I would argue that too much has been made of their Community Shield 'loss' to Arsenal, as the game actually finished 1-1, and Chelsea led until Pedro saw red for a poor challenge - he does not face a suspension for those wondering.
Relegation market will have Sean Dyche reaching for the claret
At pretty much no stage last season did Burnley look like being relegated. Their fabulous home record meant that there was always enough of a gap between themselves and the bottom three for them to be comfortable.
That being said, the season is a 38 game one and a pretty poor run-in saw them end the campaign in 16th place - just six points ahead of Hull in 18th. Therefore it is hardly shocking that they are the second favourites to go down, currently trading at around the [2.18] mark on the Betfair Exchange.
A summary of their transfer dealings this summer hardly makes that price look like a 'lay' either as arguably their two best players have departed the club, in the shape of Michael Keane and Andre Gray. I am sure some Burnley supporters will be screaming 'Tom Heaton' at me right now, but we should face the facts that outfield players have a bigger influence on things, even if Heaton is a top notch keeper.
Coming in the other way are Stoke duo, Jonathan Walters and Phil Bardsley, who, with no offence meant, are hardly inspiring names. Charlie Taylor is a promising left back who has moved from Elland Road, but he is not guaranteed to start. Jack Cork is tidy if a little ineffective, and Adam Legzdins is just cover for Tom Heaton.
Match Odds? Nothing to see here
If ever there was a time to oppose Chelsea it is now, but unfortunately they happen to be facing one of the weakest Premier League teams, who also happen to have a terrible away record.
Laying the champs at [1.26] would cost you £2.60 for every tenner you wanted to win, but what you want and what you get are two different things, and I just can't see Burnley taking anything from this game.
Would I back Antonio Conte's men at 1/4? No I would not, but would I lay them at the same price? Absolutely not. There is much better value to be had elsewhere.
Rely on the rearguard
In the Over/Under 2.5 Market, the Betfair layers have it priced up as [1.71] for three goals or more and [2.3] for two goals or less.
I am definitely in the camp of the latter as the best players on the pitch will all just about be the defensive ones. Following their 3-0 loss to Arsenal back in September, Chelsea went on to keep 10 clean sheets in 12 games, with the two blips being one conceded against Spurs and one against Man City.
The change in fortune was brought about by a change in formation by Conte, as the Italian opted to play three centre halves and two wing backs, in front of Thibaut Courtois. All things being equal, five of the six players who regularly filled those spots will be in the starting XI on Saturday, and with N'Golo Kante shielding them, it is hard to imagine anything other than a home clean sheet.
It is probably safe to assume that Over 2.5 is favourite because people are expecting the hosts to score three times themselves. I am far from certain about that though as Eden Hazard is not available to pull the strings and Batshuayi looked far from impressive last term.
I definitely recommend taking the [2.3] on offer for unders, or if you want to spice things up a bit, you can 'Dutch' 1-0 and 2-0 in the Correct Score Market at odds of roughly [3.6].
For those unfamiliar with Dutching, it means to back more than one outcome for the same profit if one of them lands. Example here - 1-0 is [8.0] and 2-0 is [6.6], so if your total stake was £20, you would put £9.04 on 1-0 and £10.96 on 2-0. If either came in, you would make around £52 profit from your £20 stake. Read here for even more information.
Book yourself a winner
The man in charge at Stamford Bridge this weekend is Craig Pawson, and he is one of the refs who likes to put his hand in his pocket a lot. He dished out 95 yellows and four reds in 24 games last season, including the Boxing Day fixture between Burnley and Middlesbrough which had 11 bookings.
A total of 13 of his 24 games saw at least four yellows, which makes Over 30 points in the Booking Odds on the Betfair Sportsbook look generous at 5/6, especially when you consider that five of Chelsea's sure-fire starters picked up five or more yellows last year.
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