BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Bridge battle could be full of goals

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 12.30pm Saturday


Chelsea were involved in an entertaining 3-3 draw with Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday and another Stamford Bridge goal-fest could be on the cards when the Blues hosts high-flying Watford.

After back-to-back league defeats, Chelsea have fallen nine points off the searing pace being set by Manchester City in the Premier League and reports have suggested that the players are unhappy with manager Antonio Conte's strict training regime.

Under-pressure boss Conte will be striving for greater consistency although his efforts could be undermined if recent injury problems persist.

The extra demands of Champions League football were always likely to place a strain on the squad and Conte was aware of the potential pitfalls when he pressed for significant squad strengthening during the transfer window.

His warnings were unheeded as the Blues added six first-team squad players - Alvaro Morata, Davide Zappacosta, Wilfredo Caballero, Danny Drinkwater, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko - and lost the same number - John Terry, Nathaniel Chalobah, Diego Costa, Asmir Begovic, Nemanja Matic and Nathan Ake.

The numbers have been further reduced by the loan departures of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kurt Zouma and Chelsea's lack of depth is being exposed as just a few key injuries are causing a major problem.

The loss of N'Golo Kante has been the biggest blow.

Kante's energy and positional sense are crucial elements of the team and he was sorely missed at Selhurst Park last week as Crystal Palace registered a deserved 2-1 victory.

The poor performance prompted a rethink from Conte, who deployed David Luiz in the holding position against Roma.

But Luiz was withdrawn with a calf strain early in the second half and, within 15 minutes of his departure, Roma had taken their goal tally from one goal to three.

Chelsea were more solid when Luiz was on the pitch and will need to be defensively switched on against Watford.

The Hertfordshire side moved up to fourth after last Saturday's 2-1 victory at home to Arsenal although Hornets manager, Marco Silva, insists that the pre-season target of top-flight survival has not changed.

Watford's improvement is partly down to better coaching – they are much more positive under Silva than under Walter Mazzarri – but is also down to having better players.

New arrivals Andre Carrillo and Kiko Femenia have quickly established themselves as first-team regulars but the big difference has been the pace and quality of Brazilian attacker Richarlison, who has scored three goals in eight games and is a constant thorn in the side of opposition defences.

With Richarlison and Carrillo adding pace on the flanks, Watford are a harder side to contain. And they can still go direct when they want to – as they showed when substitute Troy Deeney caused all sorts of problems for Arsenal.

Watford have scored 13 league goals – only City, Manchester United and Tottenham have scored more – but they are far from secure at the back and that could lead to a high-scoring contest.

Recommendation
Over 2.5 goals

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

Google +1

 

Currently no Pro Punters for today

Match in Focus

19:30 TODAY BT1

Mgladbach v Hamburg

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Hamburg have lost five of their last six away games.
Expert verdict
Hamburg have collected just four points on their travels this season (three of them against tailed of basement boys Cologne) and are unlikely to trouble Borussia Moenchengladbach at Borussia Park. Gladbach are on a three-game winless run but are still in the thick of the battle for a top four finish.