It’s been a significant week of results in the title race with Manchester City shortening to 4/5 to retain their crown.
Sunday’s 4pm kick-off with Chelsea is City’s third-last fixture against a current top seven side in the Premier League. Win it and they could be unstoppable.
Chelsea have responded to a 4-0 drubbing by Bournemouth, by tonking Huddersfield 5-0.
But that’s not really a comparable fixture to traveling to the Etihad and the Blues haven’t won any of their last six league visits at a fellow big-six side, losing the last four in a row.
There’s not many signs of encouragement here for either Chelsea – or Liverpool fans – as we get to the business end of the Premier League.
The champions are 4/9 to win on Sunday, with the draw priced at 7/2 and Chelsea at 11/2. It’s interesting that the nerdy numbers give the visitors a slightly better chance than that – closer to 9/2 – as their performances on the road have been better than their bare results.
The problem is, two of Chelsea’s three stinkers have been at Tottenham and Arsenal.
As much as I rely on the statistics, I can’t see past a home win here.
Aside from the bizarre 3-2 defeat to arch rivals United where City were two goals up at the break, Pep Guardiola’s team have won their last seven home matches against other top sides.
I think they might win by a comfortable margin too, so a look at the handicap bet of Man City -1 at 5/4, is worth considering.
Chelsea were beaten by two goals at both Tottenham and Arsenal, and by four at Bournemouth in their last away match.
In fact, they haven’t scored away from Stamford Bridge in the last 309 minutes in all competitions.
Sergio Aguero’s current form is stunning: eight goals in his last nine games, with five in City’s home matches against United, Liverpool and Arsenal this season.
Aguero has also scored a very decent 12 goals in 17 career appearances against Chelsea.
But the market hasn’t missed him. City’s number 10 is 16/5 to score first, or just 4/6 to net at some point.
I’d also consider a bet on him to score two-or-more goals, which is available at 7/2. Aguero has netted a brace or better against the Blues three times, including in this season’s Community Shield.
It must be nice for Chelsea to have a competent forward in Gonzalo Higuain up top. Higuain is rated as the most likely Chelsea man to score, at 13/5 and the Argentine has scored a goal every 134 minutes for club and country this season, which is a decent enough return.
He hasn’t always had a great record in big games though – he’s scored three in 22 appearances against Barcelona, and three in 14 when facing Juventus, for instance.
The challenge facing the visitors is summed up by the fact that there are seven City players with shorter prices.
This isn’t traditionally a high-scoring clash though. Of the 15 combinations of match-ups among the big six sides, only three have averaged fewer goals than tussles between City and Chelsea since Guardiola took charge of the former.
None of the last four meetings has seen more than two goals, with one side winning to nil every time, too. Based on the expected goal stats from those matches, it’s not as if loads of great chances have been missed in the games either.
However, this isn’t the norm for Manchester City’s big, league games, at the Etihad. Over 2.5 goals and both teams to score has paid out in 10 of their 13 home matches against the big six under Pep.
Paddy thinks that trend will continue on Sunday and I’m inclined to agree. A punt on over 2.5 goals, at 6/10, and ‘yes’ in the both teams to score market, which is 8/11.
City to win but concede is 15/8, which looks a very decent bet all things considered.
The nerdy numbers are predicting a 2-1 outcome, so that ties in nicely with the aforementioned flutters and a correct score bet on that is 13/2, if you fancy it.
Given how the fixtures get easier for City in the coming weeks on paper at least, if they win this, Liverpool’s title dream could be in tatters.