SBR's enthusiastic sports handicapper analyzes a somewhat new version of Chelsea FC, sharing free soccer picks for their upcoming Premier League schedule as well as in the Futures market.
Chelsea FC: Winning the English Premier League Again Won’t Be as Easy as Oddsmakers, Pundits, Most Think
Chelsea led the English Premier League from post to finish last season, but the 2015/16 season promises to be a much tighter race with everyone gunning for the Blues, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester City poised to knock the kings off their throne. And with former Chelsea GK and club legend Petr Cech now in North London with the Gunners, maybe we can expect a surprise at the top, but it will likely be the same-old, same-old in the EPL, with the four usual suspects battling it out for the championship and the league disappointing in UEFA Champions League play.
Chelsea (+162 to win English Premier League, Paddy Power) has really done very little over this Summer Transfer Window, and what the Blues lost—legendary Striker Didier Drogba and GK Petr Cech—outweighs anyone this West London soccer club could sign as Drogba and Cech provided a type of leadership, talent and depth impossible to find, and letting Cech sign with crosstown rivals Arsenal (+450, bet365) could end up being a really big mistake for Chelsea which in 2014/15 not only had two of the best GKs in the world, but also in the history of the sport with 23-year-old Thibaut Courtois finally heading to SW6 after being on a seemingly perpetual loan at Atlético Madrid in Spain’s La Liga. Now with Cech in North London, the Blues signed Stoke City starter Asmir Begovic to be their backup. But Cech is Cech and it wouldn’t surprise if the 33-year-old Czech native ended up having a better season than Courtois and ended up being the difference in the Gunners winning the title and the Blues losing it this season. The pressure will really be on the young Belgian now with security blanket Cech playing for Arsenal, and there is a chance he could flounder in his second-year with Chelsea, potentially opening up the Premier League title race for clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City (+375, bet365) and Manchester United (+550, Ladbrokes). But with one of the best managers in the galaxy in José Mourinho and the best Home-pitch Advantage in the EPL at Stamford Bridge (15-4-0, 36 GF-9 GA at Home last season), Chelsea is still considered the team to bet by Soccer odds makers, Sports Writers, Publications and Websites and EPL fans. And, rightfully so.
Chelsea 26-9-3 (73 GF-32 GA) does have the best Defense in the league and that old adage, “Defense wins championships” rang royal blue true again in England’s top flight of football, with the Blues often sitting on early and often minimal (1-0) leads, and Courtois and Cech holding it down in Goal and allowing an EPL-low 32 goals, captain extraordinaire John Terry—who had a career year in 2014 at the age of 34—Gary Cahill, César Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, newbie Kurt Zouma and the dependable and oh-so valuable Nemanja Matic leading the Blues Defense. And this is the reason Chelsea are the defending Premier League champions. Defense. And it’s not that the Offense was down by any stretch of the imagination—the Blues scored 73 goals last season, second to only Manchester City (83) and the league’s top-scorer, the remarkable Argentinian sensation, Sky Blues Striker Sergio Agüero (26 goals).
So let’s now address some of the negatives that could affect the English Premier League favorites Chelsea this season. First off, complacency. The Blues won the title they wanted last season and went unbeaten in the process. Second, distraction from UEFA Champions League play. This always drains energy levels and distracts players for league play. And Mourinho has to juggle starting XI’s and his roster with this prestigious European tournament. Third, leading scorer Diego Costa is both an Injury Threat (knees) as well as an instant Red-Card-Waiting-To-Happen. It always seems he is on the verge of punching or choking someone. Fourth, as mentioned, GK Courtois could fall back to earth some and the league could catch up to the Blues keeper in his 2nd year at Chelsea. Fifth, the Blues have some fairly overrated players on their roster like D Filipe Luis, MF Oscar, MF Juan Cuadrado and AC Monaco-loanee Striker Radamel Falcao, who looked tired, slow, puffy, old and uninspired in his year-loan with Manchester United last season. With Costa’s temper and Falcao’s potential Fernando Torres-ability, the Blues are really lucky that they have Striker Loïc Rémy and expect him to break out this season. And sixth, everyone will be gunning for Chelsea. But with Costa, Rémy, Belgian wizard Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic, Gary Cahill, César Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Brazilian speedsters Willian and Ramires, Courtois and captain John Terry, the Blues have a very solid and experienced nucleus and are the kind of team which seldom beats itself and makes a commitment to expending energy playing Defense. The key for the Blues this season will be to dominate Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool as they have over the last 2 seasons, but expect that gap to narrow and with Cech and Alexis Sánchez, the Gunners are definitely worth a shot win the EPL this season in the Futures Book marketplace, especially at the current more than 4-to-1 odds (+450, bet365). Chelsea may actually lose a game or two at Stamford Bridge this season, and with the Red Devils still trying to find an identity under new Manager Louis van Gaal and the Sky Blues often injury prone and their own worst enemy, backing Arsenal before everyone sees that the Gunners have a very decent shot this season seems smart right about now. And expect people to freak—and the odds to change some—if Chelsea loses in Week 2 at Etihad Stadium against Manchester City. Odds are the Blues will be underdogs and Chelsea can take some solace in the fact that former team legend Frank Lampard—now with NYCFC in MLS—won’t be going up against his old teammates this time around in a Manchester City uniform.
Chelsea GK Depth: Thibaut Courtois—Asmir Begovic—Jamal Blackman (*Note: HOME OPPONENTS in CAPS)
Who’s New and Could Have an Impact? Striker Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco; loaned to Manchester United in 2014/15), backup GK Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
Who’s Gone From Roster? Striker Didier Drogba, GK Petr Cech (Arsenal)
Possible Losses on Schedule (First Half): Week 2: @ Manchester City (Aug. 16); Week 5: @ Everton (Sep. 12); Week 6: ARSENAL (Sep. 19); Week 7: @ Newcastle United (Sep. 26); Week 12: @ Stoke City (Nov. 7); Week 15: @ Tottenham Hotspur (Nov. 28); Week 19: @ Manchester United (Dec. 28)
Possible Losses on Schedule (Second Half): Week 23: @ Arsenal (Jan. 28); Week 25: MANCHESTER UNITED (Feb. 6); Week 27: @ Southampton (Feb. 27); Week 30: @ Liverpool (March 12); Week 33: @ Swansea City (April 9); Week 34: MANCHESTER CITY (April 16)
Some Potential Good Spots to Bet Against Chelsea in Regular Season
Fading the Blues with your soccer picks is a matter of cherry picking the schedule and pretty much avoiding fading (betting against) Chelsea at Home with Mourinho in charge under the 52-year-old Portuguese maestro. Therefore, three select spots to bet against Chelsea on the Road this coming 2015/16 EPL season are: In Week 5 (Sept. 12) against Everton on the Road at Goodison Park. Chelsea has L4 of its L6 trips to Merseyside against the Toffees. But be forewarned those were marginally better Everton squads those last 6 seasons; in Week 15 against Harry Kane and Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Nov. 28) may provide the best spot to fade the Blues (and get a nice plus). Spurs rolled Chelsea 6-3 last year in this fixture and the Blues have won just 1 in their L9 meetings in this London Derby vs Tottenham; and, in the Second Half of the season in Week 23, again in a Derby, this time facing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium up in North London as now-Gunners GK Cech faces his old mates at Home in Red and Black. Though they haven’t had much success against Chelsea of late, expect the Gunners (and their fans) to be really be up for this one.
Are There Any Good Blues Value Futures Bets Now?
Some Interesting Chelsea Proposition Bet Odds 2015/16 Season:
>Team Unbeaten Home All Season: Chelsea +350 (Sky Bet)
>Not To Finish In Top 4: Chelsea 14/1 (Betfair)
>Last Team To Remain Unbeaten: Chelsea +187 (Betfred)
>Top of the Table at Christmas: Chelsea +150 (Sky Bet)
>Most Assists: Cesc Fàbregas +300, Eden Hazard +900 (Paddy Power)
>Winner EPL-Top Goalscorer: Chelsea-Diego Costa +900 (BetVictor)
Recent Relevant Chelsea and English Premier League Facts
>Chelsea (29-1-7) has just one Loss over its L2 seasons: @ Sunderland (2-1) last April 19, 2014.
> José Mourinho has never been beaten more than once by any club in the English Premier League.
> José Mourinho has a Home Win Rate of exactly 80% (152-34-4) managing European soccer clubs in stints with Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. That’s good.
> José Mourinho has lost just 4 Home games since 2004; 1 with Chelsea (Sunderland) and 3 with Real Madrid. That’s great.
>A different club has won the English Premier League in each of the past 6 seasons: Chelsea-Manchester City-Manchester United-Manchester City-Manchester United-Chelsea.
>The last club to win back-to-back titles was Manchester United in 2007/08 and 2008/09 and the Red Devils are the only EPL team to win three straight (1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01). >Chelsea won back-to-back crowns in 2004/05 and 2005/06 in Mourinho’s first stint at Stamford Bridge as the Blues went a combined 32-6-0 those two seasons.
>Newcastle United (1994/95) is the only team outside of the Big Four—Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United—to have won the Premier League in the Modern Era.
Chelsea Players to Watch
MF Eden Hazard, MF Nemanja Matic, S Diego Costa, S Loïc Rémy, D Gary Cahill, D César Azpilicueta, D Branislav Ivanovic, MF Willian, MF Cesc Fàbregas, GK Thibaut Courtois, New Signee and backup GK Asmir Begovic (Stoke City), MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, D Kurt Zouma, D Nathan Aké, Loanee Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco; loaned to Manchester United in 2014/15), MF Victor Moses (if makes roster; likely will be loaned out again)
Soccer Picks to Place on Chelsea in Regular Season:
Week 1 (August 8)—at Home vs Swansea City (Chelsea 4-0-0 lifetime at Stamford Bridge (11 GF-3 GA) vs Swans and have never lost to them (6-2-0, 19 GF-5 GA) in EPL play; Week 21 (January 13)—at Home vs West Bromwich Albion (Chelsea 9-1-0 L10 at Home, outscored Baggies 28-4).
Soccer Picks to Play AGAINST Chelsea in Regular Season:
Week 5 (September 12)—on Road against Everton at Goodison Park (Everton 4-2 L6 vs Chelsea at Home); Week 15 (November 28)—on Road at Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Chelsea has W1 of L9 at Spurs); Week 23 (January 23)—on Road against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium (GK Petr Cech at Home in North London vs old Chelsea teammates)
Chelsea Soccer Picks in Futures Market:
Dual Forecast: Chelsea-Arsenal +350; Top 4 Exact Order: Chelsea—Arsenal—Manchester United—Manchester City 28/1; Top 4 Exact Order: Arsenal—Chelsea—Manchester United—Manchester City 40/1 (Sky Bet)