Chelsea v Stoke City: In-form Blues won't give away any late gifts

Chelsea are on the up, but still unlikely to defend their title
Chelsea are on the up, but still unlikely to defend their title

Chelsea have had a strong couple of months, courtesy of an impressive defensive improvement. Kevin Hatchard believes another efficient win is on the cards against Stoke City.

"Chelsea have tightened up at the back, and as a result, eight of their last 11 Premier League matches have featured fewer than three goals."

Back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.727/4

Chelsea v Stoke City
Saturday 30 December, 15:00

Chelsea trailing in leaders' wake, but it's not all doom and gloom

With Manchester City setting the bar absurdly high in the Premier League title race, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte believes his side's own impressive form has been unfairly overlooked. He has a point - the champions have won nine of their last 12 league matches, losing just once in that sequence. They have reached the last 16 of the Champions League, and are in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

At home, Chelsea have been relentless in the last couple of months, winning six Premier League matches in a row at Stamford Bridge. All very impressive, but not enough to make a dent in City's attempts to dethrone the Blues, and not even enough to lift Conte's men into the top two above Manchester United.

Chelsea's defensive record has underpinned their recent improvement. They are chasing a fourth consecutive clean sheet in the league, and have leaked just four goals in their last 11 PL outings. At the other end, Alvaro Morata has now reached double figures in the league in his first season in England, while his Spanish compatriot Marcos Alonso continues to have a productive season in front of goal. The left-back has scored in recent wins over Southampton and Brighton, taking his league tally to five goals this term.

David Luiz is still missing with a knee injury, while his fellow centre-back Andreas Christensen is struggling with illness. Conte may decide to shuffle his pack to deal with a packed festive schedule, but his key performers should all feature.

Stoke still searching for stability

Despite a battling 1-1 draw at Huddersfield on Boxing Day, Stoke are still very much in the relegation mix, with just three points separating them from the bottom three. Mark Hughes' side gave up a fair few chances against the Terriers, and they don't seem to be in great shape defensively as they head to Stamford Bridge.

There is little statistical encouragement for Stoke fans here. The Potters have lost ten of their last 11 games at Stamford Bridge in all competitions, and they have won just one of the last ten away games in the Premier League.

Stoke have a few selection headaches in defence. Kurt Zouma can't face his parent club, while Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi are less than fully fit. Spanish forward Jese continues to be a peripheral figure, with Stoke quite rightly giving him time off recently to return to Spain to be with his ill infant son.

Chelsea the overwhelming favourites

Chelsea are priced at a prohibitive 1.192/11 to win this, and therefore it's tricky to find an angle here. I fully expect the hosts to win against a Stoke side that is struggling for form, especially away from home. Backing Chelsea/Chelsea in the HT/FT market is 1.618/13, and backing the hosts -1.5 on the Asian Handicap is a miserly 1.528/15, so I'm heading elsewhere.

Conservative Chelsea could do us a favour

Chelsea have gone back to basics and tightened up their defence in recent weeks, and as a result, four of their last five Premier League games have featured fewer than three goals. In fact, if you go back further, eight of their last 11 league matches have seen an Under 2.5 Goals bet land.

Under 2.5 Goals is trading at 2.727/4, but you could be more conservative and go for Under 3.5 Goals at 1.738/11.

Narrow Chelsea win could yield a profit

In four of their last five home games in the league, Chelsea have either won 1-0 or 2-0. On that basis, you might wish to take a look at the Correct Score market, with 1-0 trading at 10.09/1 and 2-0 priced at 6.86/1.

Kevin Hatchard 2017-18 Premier League P/L

Points Staked: 32

Points Returned: 40.33

P/L: +8.33 points

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