Weblog: The football punter

Chelsea can maintain unbeaten start to season

Premier League
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

Chelsea have stuck around towards the top of the Premier League without really catching the attention of the markets. But they can announce themselves as genuine title challengers by beating Tottenham at Wembley.

Doubts over Chelsea's title credentials have focused on their kinder set of early-season fixtures.

They have not had to face an away game against any of the big six, leaving punters guessing about their true potential.

That is not the case with Manchester City, who have drawn at Liverpool and won at Tottenham and Arsenal, or Liverpool, who have drawn at Chelsea and Arsenal and won at Spurs.

It is worth remembering that Tottenham are only a point behind Chelsea.

Spurs are 66-1 in the title betting yet have not had the easiest of starts – playing eight of their 12 matches away from home – and have stayed within five points of leaders City.

The issue with Spurs is they have had to work extremely hard for a lot of their victories, including a fortnight ago, when they scrambled a 1-0 success away to a Crystal Palace side weakened by Wilfried Zaha's absence.

It is often said that good teams win games while not playing well but Spurs are riding their luck too often for comfort and whenever they come up against top-level opponents they are exposed.

Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester City defeated them at Wembley and all of their nine league wins have come against teams outside the top seven.

Part of the problem is that none of their big-hitting attacking players are firing on all cylinders.

Over the last few seasons Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen have been hugely influential and Son Heung-Min has been quietly effective, notching 14 league goals in the 2016-17 campaign and 12 last term.

This season Kane has scored six league goals without performing anywhere near his peak while Alli has netted just once and Eriksen and Son have failed to score.

Some of the slack has been taken up by Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura, who have four goals each, but Spurs do not look as dynamic as in recent seasons and will need to get that back if they are to go into the big games with genuine confidence.

Chelsea are playing with greater intensity and assurance and talisman Eden Hazard is having a fantastic season.

Hazard had a few injury problems between the October and November international breaks and missed the Blues' 4-0 success at Burnley.

But he started the 0-0 draw at home to Everton and was in the Belgium team who lost 5-2 in Switzerland last Sunday.

Chelsea will be happy that their star man returned unscathed because they rely heavily on Hazard to make the difference against the big teams.

He has already left an indelible mark on Liverpool this season, scoring a stunning goal to deliver a 2-1 victory at Anfield in the EFL Cup third round and following it up three days later with an equaliser against the Reds at Stamford Bridge.

Hazard also has fond recent memories of Wembley, having scored the only goal in last season's FA Cup final against Manchester United and, if he is anywhere near his best, Chelsea will have a great chance of making a big statement and taking all three points.

Chelsea draw no bet

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Match in Focus

12:30 TODAY BT2

Brighton v Derby

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Derby have lost only one of their last nine outings.
Expert verdict
Derby haven’t lost in over a month so should go into their fifth-round tie at Brighton with high hopes. Brighton were hammered by Burnley in their last outing and there could be a shock on the cards when the Rams, buoyed by last week’s dominant performance against Hull, head south.