Adrian Clarke is back with his Premier League Insights Column and has found two selections before the international break…
KEEN TO SHOW FAITH IN IMPROVING CHELSEA
I wouldn’t say he’s out of the woods just yet, but Graham Potter can, at last, see shards of daylight through the branches.
Three straight wins for Chelsea have cleared his mind and eased the pressure.
The Blues are playing reasonably well too. I know Leicester City don’t put up much of a fight these days, but their 3-1 win at the King Power Stadium was largely impressive.
OK, they got lucky with a couple of bad Foxes misses, but Kai Havertz, Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk all looked sharp and cohesive. Excellent finishes from Ben Chilwell and Mateo Kovacic also put smiles on faces.
Prior to that success, clean sheet victories at home to Leeds United and Borussia Dortmund were also richly deserved, providing legitimate grounds for optimism (finally) at Stamford Bridge.
In a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, they are starting to look like a team.
Next up are Everton, and you’d have to be on Chelsea’s side for this one.
Sean Dyche is in the process of improving them, especially on home turf, but away from Goodison Park, they are yet to convince.
Just twice all season have they scored more than once in an away match (winning just once), and in clashes against the current top 10, they have drawn blanks in five of seven games.
I won’t be rushing to back the Blues at 1.5, but they are strong and worthy favourites.
To me, pairing a home win with an Unders shout makes perfect sense.
Chelsea have only netted 14 home goals (the sixth lowest in the division), while Everton have found the back of the net just eight times on their travels.
When you cast your eye over events at the Bridge this term, end-to-end thrillers have been conspicuous by their absence.
Just one of Chelsea’s 12 home Premier League matches so far has yielded over 3.5 goals. Across the campaign as a whole, only three of 26 have breached that goal count too!
What of Everton? It’s a very similar story.
Two of 13 away games have exceeded 3.5 goals, and their season tally is three from 27.
They regularly lose but are usually well-organised enough to avoid severe beatings.
In a pretty dreadful season by their standards, Chelsea have still flat-track bullied the lesser lights in west London. Winning six and losing just once (Southampton) to sides beneath them. So, in short, this is just the type of game they normally prevail in.
My pick is Chelsea and Under 3.5 goals at 2.06.
GOING LOW (AGAIN) AT MOLINEUX
On March 18, 2022, Leeds United came back from 2-0 down to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 in one of the most thrilling matches of the entire campaign. It was sheer carnage. A riot of goals and excitement.
A year on, I expect a far-tamer reunion.
Why? Well, Leeds’ former head coach, the always chaotic Jesse Marsch, has been replaced by the much more solid and reliable Javi Gracia. His team are still ‘lively’, but the Spaniard doesn’t seem anywhere near as keen on them being frantic in all that they do.
The Yorkshireman were involved in a fun 2-2 draw with Brighton at Elland Road last weekend, but when you span the last eight games, they have spawned an average of just 1.75 goals per game.
In five of those eight, Leeds has failed to score.
That’s not ideal when you face a trip to Wolves, who are pretty tidy at totting up Molineux clean sheets. They have six from 13 games so far, which has contributed to this stadium once again experiencing goals on relatively sparse occasions.
Just 1.92 goals a game have been seen at Wolves this season, the second lowest behind Stamford Bridge.
My eyes were immediately drawn towards Under 2.5 goals, but at 1.73, you don’t get the juiciest price.
My go-to alternative is usually BTTS NO, and at 1.91 with Matchbook, this does tempt me.
Fans of this Black Country club rarely see the sight of both teams hitting the back of the net in the same game. It has happened just twice in 13 fixtures up until this point of the campaign.
Under Julen Lopetegui, they know how to churn out clean sheet wins (1-0 v West Ham and Spurs, 3-0 v Liverpool), but if they aren’t at it, they can lose out narrowly too, just like they did in 1-0 home losses to Manchester United and Bournemouth.
Wolves have failed to score in 46% of their home matches, which is a concern.
If I had to stick my neck on the line and pick a winner, it would probably be Wolves here, but Gracia is a shrewd tactician who may have a nice game plan up his sleeve for this all-Spanish dugout duel.
Leeds United’s recent BTTS return, landing twice in eight, also helps me to make up my mind.
I can’t trust either side to score or win, so BTTS NO is my selection, currently available at 1.91.
- Chelsea & Under 3.5 Goals v Everton (2.06)
- Wolves v Leeds BTTS NO (1.91)
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