Probably the most-anticipated match on the schedule in Week 3 of the English Premier League is this Saturday’s fixture between Chelsea (2-0-0) and Everton (0-2-0). Here are our top picks.
The Everton vs. Chelsea game appears to be a showdown between two of the league‘s best goalkeepers in the Blues’ Thibaut Courtois and the Toffees’ Tim Howard (NBC, 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m PT).
The oddsmakers have made the road team Chelsea the favorites in this one (-110, bet365) with Everton healthy underdogs (+24o) in Merseyside and the draw line about equally priced (+250) as Roberto Martínez’s club. The 2½ total is juiced heavily to the Under (-133) and has has moved in that direction almost 10 cents since being released as handicappers focus on the two stellar goalkeepers, last year’s two 1-0 scorelines in EPL play and the fact that the Under is an impressive 7-3 in the last 10 meetings in all competitions in this series, averaging just 2.1 goals per game (Chelsea 11 goals, Everton 10 goals).
Everton Leaving Points On The Table
The Toffees have done all the right things over the waning summer transfer window, locking up manager Martínez and Ross Barkley and signing Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea, who scored 15 goals for Everton on loan from West London’s Blues after having a second solid season following a loan spell with West Bromwich Albion a year earlier. But this season has now suddenly started out very weird for the club after earning just two points in two games that it led 2-0 (Leicester City, Arsenal) and ended up tying, 2-2. Not getting six points in your first two fixtures when you were playing better than the opposition isn’t a very good way to approach winning a Premier League crown. But is a pretty good way to create expectations that one can’t hold a lead.
Chelsea Finally Has All The Right Pieces In Place
José Mourinho and the Blues have done a great job getting all the players they need over the summer to create a beast that can compete for both an EPL title and make some noise in UEFA Champions League play. Signing club legend and talisman Didier Drogba (Galatasaray) and Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid) at striker, midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (Barcelona) and getting Courtois back from loan from La Liga’s Los Rojiblancos shows a real desire to make this a team with dynamic players at every position and depth like few clubs on the planet have. It always helps having a rich Russian oligarch as your owner.
Another top four finish and qualification for Champions League play again is almost an expectation at Stamford Bridge now with Costa filling a massive void at the starting striker spot and the 22-year-old Courtois being among the top two goalkeepers in the world. After playing two fairly solid games, Chelsea will look to put it all together here on Saturday and get some revenge for a hard 1-0 loss at Goodison last season. The Blues have struggled with the feisty Toffees of late, holding just a slight 4-3-3 edge over the last 10 meetings in all competitions. Taking Chelsea at the fair price seems wise here, although it could be a grinder game with few quality shots on target from either club. A Draw No Bet (Chelsea -200) might suit the gambler/punter worried about losing his or her money on a tie and is something I’d recommend here, along with a money-line wager on the visitors.
Playing The Anytime Goalscorer Market
Although the prices in this marketplace are all over the map and often seem like they could be higher for certain players, going with the Anytime Goalscorer marketplace as opposed to the First Goalscorer or Last Goalscorer markets would always be my advice as locking yourself into a proposition bet which can only have one winner—and possibly none in the case of a 0-0 Draw—is really trying to pinpoint it, crystal ball level. My philosophy here would be to take a hot player—Chelsea’s Costa (+162, bet365) in this particular case—and make a modest-sized bet and relish in the fact you’d be getting a decent plus. Costa has taken two shots so far this season on goal, and both have gone in and he, and Chelsea for that matter, haven’t clicked for two halves yet and Everton could have their hands full but one look at the Toffees roster and potential starting XI and you know this will be an absolutely great game to watch.
And toss in the storyline of Lukaku (+210) getting to play against the team he was so mad at for not automatically dubbing him ‘Our Top Striker’ that they simply sent him packing, despite his valuable size and immense potential. But if José doesn’t like something, José has no trouble letting them go elsewhere or just sit as Juan Mata (Manchester United), Kevin de Bruyne (Bayer Leverkusen), Lukaku and former Real Madrid GK Iker Casillas, among others, can certainly attest to. Mourinho definitely has a little of Jack Nicholson’s character in the classic One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Randall P. McMurphy—which became the second film to win all five major awards at the Oscars—in him and it’s that kind of Mad Genius vibe Chelsea fans just love. But back to the potential scorers and a lesson.
Along with logical favorites Costa and Lukaku, oddsmakers have the Blues Eden Hazard (+275), André Schürrle (+333), Oscar (+333) and Fàbregas (+400) priced properly in attacking midfielders range while other Everton possibilities are Kevin Mirallas (+275), Conor McAleny (+333) and Steven Naismith (+333). Costa should get his goal here but the other predicted Chelsea score will likely come from one of the other four Blues in this paragraph.
Of note when handicapping or betting when this particular marketplace: Do your research to make sure the player you’re actually betting in to score at any point during the game will actually get enough playing time or a decent shot in comparison to the price. For example,
Fernando Torres is priced at+240, way less than all the guys above who could all actually start. And Drogba (+162) is the same price as Costa? Ridiculous. And then a player like Mohamed Salah (+400) is priced equally as Fabregas, and Salah might not even play while Fabregas will be expected to start.
Even worse is when the sportsbooks put up odds on guys like Christian Atsu (+400), who is on loan from Chelsea to Everton and because of the league’s loans rules, I’m fairly sure he can’t even play in this match as Lukaku couldn’t in the two games against Chelsea last season because of this rule. And then there’s the Toffees’ Barkley (+400) who is currently out injured with reports talking about Martínez “hoping” for an October return. It’s August 25th brother. So, probably not too wise to bet on a guy who can’t play or one who is out with an injury. History reveals that no Anytime Goalscorers have ever worn street clothes and loafers.
How This Contest Should All Pan Out
Chelsea being bent on revenge for last year’s tough loss here combined with the facts they will slowly gel as a unit and that it has recently played better away from Stamford Bridge for some strange reason make me side with Chelsea here as Mourinho foams at the mouth in his historically great second seasons with teams. This will be like a defensive chess match—Everton needs the win so bad now but Chelsea may be the best team in the EPL and the best in England’s top flight since Mourinho was last roaming the sidelines in West London. This looks like it could be either 1-0 Chelsea or a 0-0 Draw at half (+190 Boylesports) so if you think nobody will score in the first 45 minutes, take a shot at the Halftime Scores market and the near 2/1 odds.
Everton will definitely play a great game here but Señor Costa is addicted to El Golazo and will be the most dangerous guy out there and Everton has to be thinking too much after blowing back-to-back 2-0 leads. And Courtois is simply a bit better than Howard. The Chelsea To Win To Nil (+245, 888sport) and the Exact Score of Chelsea 2-0, (+1100, 11/1, Ladbroke’s) have very sweet payouts if you somehow think everything goes as planned, but, as always, best to think for yourself and know the Blues hold a big spot in my heart.
Prediction: Everton 0 Chelsea 2
Free Soccer Picks: Chelsea -110 (bet365), Chelsea -181 Draw No Bet/Pick (Ladbroke’s), Diego Costa (Chelsea), Anytime Goalscorer +162 (bet365)