Just a few weeks ago it seemed that Liverpool might sail to the Premiership crown in spring of 2019. Led by Mohamed Salah and a supporting cast of fine attackers, the Reds did not give other challengers much hope for an open door.
That was then. Dropped points from Salah’s squad and strident quality from Manchester City and Tottenham have tightened the race prior to Matchday 26. City more than definitely has a chance, having tied the Reds in points (though not total matches) as of Wednesday. Spurs is 5 points back with an extra match to play.
As for Chelsea? The Blues just might still have some kind of outside shot at 12 points back. But not if Maurizio Sarri’s club loses to Manchester City this Sunday.
The betting odds for City-Chelsea haven’t changed much following City’s 2-0 win over Everton. The host Sky Blues are a (-200) favorite compared to (+580) on visiting Chelsea to win in 90+ next to (+260) on a Draw result.
Sportsbetting.ag is also offering a rare pair of straight-up lines on the goal spread and the O/U total with a (-1) spread for favored City and a (3) total-goal O/U market. That makes me very happy. Down with Asian Handicaps!
The Way of Eden
Forward Eden Hazard, whom some Chelsea supporters believe should be the team’s up-front striker on a permanent basis, is likely to go to Real Madrid this summer instead.
While the move doesn’t import anything immediate on the squad’s upcoming fixtures, the potential move does highlight the squad’s issues at forward. Striker Gonzalo Higuaín scored twice against Huddersfield (so did Hazard) but he’s ultimately a loaner from Juventus and not a long-term solution.
That’s a crying shame, since Maurizio Sarri’s backline could not be playing much better, outside of a freakish 0-4 loss to Cherries on Matchday 24.
Center-back David Luiz tallied in the romp over the Terriers, and Marcus Alonzo remains an imposing threat in the box and a contributor on the attack. Midfielders who have had reputations as attack-first types, such as Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté, are combining to choke-out opposing ball possession and chances. Kepa is likely to start work (or already has started work) on another long shut-out streak soon.
Has such a stubborn and dynamic club ever been a 6-to-1 underdog? Who is their opponent this Sunday, anyway, the All-World Team?
Maybe not. But close.
The Team Too Awesome to Handicap Every Week
The Sky Blues are so good, it’s easy to forget about them. Don’t look now, but the club has a chance at a triple championship in 2019.
City will play in the Carabao Cup (EFL Cup) final against Chelsea, and faces a 5th Round opponent in the FA Cup (Newport County) which is eminently beatable.
Wednesday’s victory over Everton showcased the strengths of City’s roster and coaching prowess. The Toffeemen took care not to over-extend their formation with forwards like Sergio Agüero and Leroy Sané lurking in an opposing 4-4-3. Everton only allowed 6 corner kicks and recorded double-digit fouls while only taking a single yellow card.
But it didn’t matter in the end. Sarri juggled his lineup, substituting superstars like Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne onto the pitch. By the end of each half, the Toffees were exhausted and ready to allow the winning tallies.
Is there any weakness in City’s backline with a keeper like Ederson playing behind Laporte, Kyle Walker and John Stones? Nicolás Otamendi is at center-back next to Stones right now, but he’s played in a pair of World Cups for Argentina despite not being as worshipped in England as Stones and Walker.
That sounds indomitable on paper. But in the flesh, Man City has looked as prone to the upset as Liverpool or Chelsea in recent weeks. City lost to Newcastle 2-1 on January 29th, committing a penalty that led to the winner from Matt Ritchie in the 80th minute.
The Citizens got a goal from Agüero to begin the match and controlled the ball for over 70% of the 90 minutes and extra time, but only managed 4 on-target shots and committed 7 fouls and 3 yellow cards.
Handicapping the Citizens and Blues
There’s no overlooking a Vegas line so exaggerated as to cast one of the finest defending and ball-possessing teams in the world at (+580) to win the match.
Consider the dynamics. Chelsea at least has a stop-gap striker type who is clicking, and who gives the club enough dangerous weapons to keep opposing midfielders and backlines cautious. The club’s goalkeeping is superb, and opposing squads simply aren’t scoring or generating chances at a rate that would make the Blues look defensively vulnerable against even the best attackers in England, so long as one counts the Bournemouth loss as an anomaly.
I like Manchester City to potentially win 3 or at least 2 titles in 2019. But this isn’t really about City – it’s about Chelsea.
The visitors will have to contend with a tough audience in Manchester, and an even tougher opponent on the pitch. But the EPL is not the only competition in which they’ll get to challenge Man City with a lot on the line in late winter. The club is scoring, defending, and passing at a high level, and has ample momentum for a team that is not competing in the Champions League.
If City takes the lead, I’m feeling a solid 2-0 or 3-1 win for the hosts. An early Chelsea goal, on the other hand, would put City under all kinds of pressure against a team that can hold any number of star attackers off the board in a given match.
I’m loving Chelsea on the (+580) moneyline. However, avoid the visitors ATS.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.