Chelsea v Middlesbrough | 8 May 20:00
Antonio Conte praised his Chelsea side’s patience after their 3-0 win at Everton last weekend, one achieved after a goalless opening hour on Merseyside, where he also admitted he barely said a word to his players after the game.
It’s a virtue that could be tested to the limit over the next round of Premier League fixtures which sees the current leaders play Middlesbrough on Monday night, 72 hours after title rivals Tottenham travel to West Ham.
According to the betting, the Blues are almost over the line, with Grosvenor Sport offering odds of just 1/17 for the Stamford Bridge club winning England’s top division for a sixth time. Spurs, though, just won’t go away.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team have won their last nine league games and rate as 9/1 shots to overhaul their capital rivals. The Argentine said on Thursday that the match at the London Stadium is a ‘great opportunity’ to ‘put a little bit of pressure’ on Chelsea.
Should Spurs win, and cut the gap to a solitary point ahead of the Blues home game versus Boro, Conte might need to be a little more vocal in the dressing room.
Diego Costa to score first, was 9/4, now 5/2
Alvaro Negredo to score first, was 12/1, now 14/1
West Ham v Tottenham | 5 May 20:00
While Tottenham’s players will be hoping to put Chelsea under pressure by winning in East London, those that take to the pitch in claret and blue will be looking to ease the burden on Slaven Bilic’s shoulders by claiming a rare home success.
The Croatian is rated as an 11/2 shot to leave the Hammers before the season is out and, with just two league victories at the London Stadium since mid-December, there’s every chance those odds might shrink come 10pm on Friday.
Spurs are 2/5 favourites to beat West Ham, with their hosts 7/1 and the draw 4/1. Even at those odds, the side that has amassed 147 points in the Premier League since the start of last season (15 more than any other team) must be backed.
Each of their last four league wins have been ‘to nil’, something worth backing at 4/9, while Harry Kane, whose netted five goals in his last five appearances against West Ham and has plundered 18 goals in his last 20 London derbies, must be punted at 13/5 to score first and at 69/100 to net at any time.
Andre Ayew to score first, was 23/2, now 12/1
Harry Kane to score first, was 13/5, now 3/1
Hull v Sunderland | 6 May 15:00
The pick of Saturday’s matches across the Premier League are undoubtedly Hull City’s home game against Sunderland and Swansea’s televised Liberty Stadium clash versus Everton. And both teams are threatened to win. At 4/9 (Hull) and 7/4 (Swansea) the double returns a shade less than 3/1.
The Tigers are first up at 3pm and, given Marco Silva hasn’t lost a home league match as a manager since March 2014 (34 wins and seven draws) when his Estoril side went down 1-0 to Rio Ave, this looks the safest leg of the double.
David Moyes’ team have failed to score in nine of their last 10 games and another blank is on the cards here. Seven of the Black Cats last nine fixtures have featured fewer than 2.5 goals, so back the ‘unders’ again at 49/50.
Swansea v Everton | 6 May 17:30
Swansea were dreadfully unlucky to lose at Old Trafford last weekend. Paul Clement’s team registered the same amount of shots (12) as Manchester United and were undone by a dodgy penalty award (they’ve conceded a spot kick in each of their last two matches – it’s 11/4 they do so again in South Wales, with the visitors 13/2 to convert from 12 yards).
Everton ran out of steam and ideas against Chelsea and, with more speculation surrounding Ronald Koeman’s future (the Dutchman is 11/1 to be the next Barcelona Head Coach), they could see their unbeaten away league – that stretches back to 1956 and a 1-0 loss to Cardiff at Ninian Park – ended.
Fernando Llorente to score first, was 24/5, now 11/2
Romelu Lukaku to score first, was 13/4, now 4/1
Arsenal v Manchester United | 7 May 16:00
It’s a sign of the times that old foes Arsenal and Manchester United are scrapping over fourth place in the Premier League, with both looking increasingly likely to miss out on Champions League qualification by the most orthodox route (the Gunners are 7/1, United 9/2).
Arsene Wenger has never led a side to a league victory over a team managed by Jose Mourinho (seven draws five wins), but should the United manager rest players after his team’s 1-0 triumph over Celta Vigo in the Europa League in Spain on Thursday, this could be the Frenchman’s opportunity to snap that winless run.
That certainly has been factored into the prices with Arsenal evens and the visitors to Emirates 14/5 – the draw is 13/5.
I think Arsenal will win, but am put off by a price that offers little value. Arsenal have struggled to break down well organised defenses recently, with only two of their last 16 goals netted in the first half.
United have conceded only twice in the opening period in their last 14 matches and, with a defense bolstered after a spate of injuries, they could frustrate their hosts. Backing no first half goals is advised at 2/1, as is the 23/20 offered about the teams heading down the tunnel all square at the break.
Alexis Sanchez to score first, was 4/1, now 9/2
Marcus Rashford to score first, was 13/2, now 7/1
Bank on Goals At The Bridge As Boro Face the Abyss
Every single statistic you look at points to Chelsea, at 1/7, beating Middlesbrough, who trade at 19/1. The Blues have won their last six league games against the Teesside club without conceding (33/50 this time around), they’ve mustered more shots on target at home (97) this season than their opponents have registered both home and away (93), while this match-up pits the league’s highest scorers this term against the team that are the joint lowest.
What could possibly go wrong for Chelsea backers? Well, Steve Agnew’s side have shown a few signs of life recently, with their 2-2 draw to Manchester City and crucial success over Sunderland rare positives since Aitor Karanka left the club. The problem Boro have is that a draw isn’t good enough in the battle to avoid the drop and at some stage they will have to attempt to go toe-to-toe with Chelsea.
Should that happen, the floodgates could easily open and, as the Blues have failed to score in just two games in all competitions this season, the best bets could be to side with over 2.5 goals (at 51/100) and over 3.5 goals (13/10) in the match. Backing both would have seen eight winning bets from 10 placed in Chelsea’s last five fixtures.
A loss for Middlesbrough just along from the Kings Road on Monday night could confirm their status as a Championship side next season if results go against them elsewhere.
Technically, Burnley (150/1), West Ham (50/1) or Crystal Palace (16/1) could fill the final spot in the bottom three, but realistically it looks to be between Swansea (11/20) and Hull (19/10), although neither can be relegated this weekend.