There's plenty to play for at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Chelsea and Wolves scramble for European qualification spots. Mark O'Haire analyses the odds...
"The visitors have been beaten only twice on their travels at top-half teams, and lost by a margin of two goals or more on two occasions across the whole season"
Chelsea v Wolves
Sunday July 26, 16:00
Chelsea overawed at Anfield
Chelsea need a point from their final Premier League fixture of the season against Wolves on Sunday at Stamford Bridge to confirm their place in the top-four, and next season's Champions League. The Blues were beaten 5-3 in a breathless thriller from Anfield in midweek, finding themselves three goals down before the interval despite a positive start.
Frank Lampard's team were no match for the champions, who moved through the gears after breaking the deadlock. Olivier Giroud's scrambled strike on the stroke of half-time gave the guests hope, although the hosts kept Chelsea at arm's length throughout. Substitutes Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic were also on-target for the Blues.
There were fine elements to Chelsea's performance on Wednesday, but frailty at the back has continued to dog any potential improvement. Lampard will look to iron out possible backline concerns ahead of Sunday, whilst Pulisic is expected to start following another explosive contribution from the bench. N'Golo Kante remains a major doubt in midfield.
Wolves ease past Palace
Wolves eased past a hapless Crystal Palace to maintain hopes of playing Europa League football next season. Nuno Espirito Santo's side sit in sixth and matching Tottenham's result at Crystal Palace on Sunday will guarantee the Old Gold continental football when 2020/21 rolls around, as well as bettering the Black Country boys' finishing position last term.
Daniel Podence scored his first goal for Wolves since joining from Olympiakos in January by nodding in from close range to finish off a lovely team move and Jonny Otto added a second with a quick spin and shot. Nuno's troops were rarely threatened by Palace as they recorded a ninth Premier League clean sheet in 13 outings dating back to the start of February.
Sunday's showdown will be Wolves' 57th of the campaign with the visitors' season starting well over a year ago in the Europa League qualifiers. With the prospect of finishing sixth potentially rewarding Wolves with a direct route into the group-stage at-hand, there's still plenty to play for from an Old Gold perspective before they turn their attention to Europe.
Blues odds-on favourites
Chelsea are unbeaten in all five Premier League home games against Wolves (W4-D1-L0), last losing against the Old Gold in the top-flight at Stamford Bridge in March 1979. The hosts were 5-2 winners when the duo locked horns at Molineux in early Autumn, although the pair have shared a W1-D1-L1 return in head-to-head games since the start of last season.
Chelsea 1.9210/11 haven't lost their final Premier League home match since 2002 (W7-D3-L0) but come into Sunday's contest having shipped 54 league goals, only in 94/95 and 96/97 have they conceded more in a single campaign in the competition. The Blues boast a mediocre W3-D3-L2 return when welcoming top-half teams and have W2-D2-L5 against the top-six.
Wolves 4.30100/30 are in the midst of recording their best top-flight campaign since 1980 and arrive in the capital having suffered just four defeats on their travels in 18 in 2019/20 (W7-D7-L4). Exclude Liverpool and the Old Gold have posted eye-catching W15-D14-L6 figures across the campaign, failing to score in just six of those 35 Premier League fixtures.
Old Gold can make their mark
Chelsea's encounters at Stamford Bridge haven't proven quite so profitable for goals-based backers compared to the club's road trips, however, it's worth noting that six of the Blues' eight contests with top-half rivals in West London have paid out for Both Teams To Score backers 1.814/5, as well as six rewarding Over 2.5 Goals 1.9620/21 punters.
Considering what's at stake, it's surprising to see both markets available to support at generous prices on Sunday. Wolves have fired only four blanks on the road with 11 (61%) games paying out in the BTTS market but it's the 1.75 that really appeals via the Same Game Multi market on Wolves to score Over 0.5 Goals and Wolves +2 handicap.
The visitors have been beaten only twice on their travels at top-half teams, and lost by a margin of two goals or more on two occasions across the whole season, whilst Chelsea have kept just two shutouts in 17 meetings with top-half rivals. In what's expected to be an enjoyable final-day shootout, I'm anticipating a decent display from the Molineux men.
For more tips and insight on this and the other key final day games, check out this week's Football...Only Bettor podcast
Mark's 2019/20 Profit/Loss
Staked: 175.00 pts
Returned: 194.40 pts
P/L: +19.40 pts