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Weblog: The football punter

Chelsea and Huddersfield to play out cagey affair

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 7.45pm Wednesday


Chelsea’s top-four quest is on again after a freakish set of Premier League results in recent weeks – and that may well spell danger for Huddersfield.

Six weeks ago Antonio Conte’s fallen champions were eight points off the pace and concentrating on the FA Cup.

But four straight wins culminating in Sunday’s 1-0 success over a Liverpool side who have collected just two points out of a possible nine, have seen the Blues roar back into Champions League contention.

They go into this game just two points off Spurs and three behind Liverpool and even though those two have eminently winnable home games to come, Chelsea can pounce if they slip up.

Firstly, they need to take care of Huddersfield, who are also in need of points. A draw will be enough to secure Premier League survival for David Wagner's men and confirm relegation for Swansea, who lost 1-0 to Southampton last night.

The Terriers will be buoyed by Sunday’s outstanding 0-0 draw at Manchester City, which was a sickener of a result for all of their relegation rivals.

Stopping City from scoring – Wolves in the League Cup had been the only previous opponents to keep a clean sheet at the Etihad this season – was a supreme effort from Wagner who gambled on a back five, three grafters in midfield, a playmaker in Alex Pritchard and lone target man Steve Mounie.

It worked a treat, though City looked as though they were just going through the motions. Chelsea surely won’t be anywhere near as obliging.

Huddersfield went to Manchester looking to avoid defeat and will have the same mindset at the Bridge. Given their workrate and the fact that they won’t be giving Conte’s men much space to operate, expect a low-scorer.

Chelsea are the lowest home scorers of the big six with 29, which is two more than Huddersfield have managed home and away.

Town have mustered just two goals in their last eight matches, a sequence of games which has yielded one win.

Long odds-on prices for Chelsea are easier to decline after City flopped against the same opponents at even shorter odds.

Huddersfield’s lack of firepower, however, also makes the outsiders hard to trust even at big prices. The draw cannot be overlooked though Chelsea, who still have something tangible to play for, should get the job done.

Contrary to what happened in Manchester, the layers expect goals and under 2.5 looks decidedly appetising.

Twenty-two of Huddersfield’s 36 league matches have produced two goals or fewer and they are set up to be resilient with tough-man Florent Hadergjonaj joining Aaron Mooy and Jonathan Hogg in a midfield three.

Chelsea’s last three matches have produced a 2-0 win against Southampton in the FA Cup and back-to-back 1-0 victories against Swansea and Liverpool.

They have looked reliant on the creativity of Eden Hazard in each of those games but there are whispers he could be rested for their last league game and the FA Cup final.

Recommendation
Under 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus

19:45 Sa 26May

Real Madrid v Liverpool

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real have won just one of their last four Champions League meetings against English opposition
Expert verdict
Real Madrid have lifted the Champions League in three of the past four seasons but they could struggle to retain their crown against a lively Liverpool. Real have been the dominant force in Europe, with last year’s 4-1 thumping of Juventus in the final in Cardiff showcasing their superiority. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men have not bumped into a front three like the Reds’ often - Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have netted 29 of their 40 Champions League goals this season - and they are vulnerable to the counter-attack.