THE international break is over and it’s back to the grind in the Premier League. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) picks out his Saturday best bets.
Chelsea v Leicester | Saturday 12:45 | Sky Sports 1
What a fantastic reintroduction to the Premier League this is after the international break. Two sides with a bit to prove in the league this season with alarm bells going off around their ears.
Despite optimism that a lack of European football could push Chelsea towards a title challenge, that thought has somewhat unravelled in the last month or so.
Nine points out of nine looked sexy but get further up to the facts and the make up starts to wear off. Wins over Watford, West Ham and Burnley are all well and good but when Chelsea have been up against stellar opposition they’ve struggled.
A 2-1 loss to Liverpool flattered them while a 3-0 loss to their usual punchbags Arsenal must have been alarming for the club. The ship was steadied against Hull two weeks ago but again the first half proved a struggle.
Leicester are their opponents and I reckon the Foxes can get amongst them. Worryingly for the champions they’ve kicked off their away campaign with three defeats out of three – but they have shown fight in those games.
Goals were scored in all three of these matches and although Liverpool and Manchester United put four past them both sides were at the top of their game in periods of those matches.
Despite the return of John Terry to the Chelsea ranks they have to be taken on in some capacity at 8/13 I think. The avenue I’ll take is for them to concede against the champions in a goal-heavy game.
At 21/20 I can back Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals with Marathon Bet and that fits my thinking. I can see Leicester having a go here and Chelsea showing their teeth too.
Leicester have scored in six of their seven league matches this season and I don’t think Chelsea’s defence is confident enough to keep them out on Saturday. The Blues have also scored in six of their seven Premier League games and look equipped to unsettle a Leicetser side struggling away from home in 2016/17.
Arsenal v Swansea | Saturday 15:00
Taking a bit of a leap of faith here but it’s Swansea that appeal more than Arsenal in this Saturday fixture. There are a few reasons to back up this assertion.
The North London side are surely due a bad result after a run of five consecutive Premier League wins. It’s 18 months since Arsenal put together a run of six straight league wins so this feels like a mini-hurdle.
Maybe though their hiccup came two weeks ago when they played poorly against Burnley but emerged with a last minute 1-0 win? It’s very possible but if so we really are looking at a new Arsenal.
The situation at Swansea is an interesting one. Francisco Guidolin was harshly shown the door two weeks ago and former US national team manager Bob Bradley has come in to replace him.
This is the opportunity Bradley has been waiting for all his career and he will leave no stone unturned to hurt Arsenal on Saturday and more long-term get Swansea up the table.
Whether he’s had enough time to work with the player is debatable but his charismatic, clear style may just be what the Welsh club’s playing personnel need after a poor 18 months.
The New Manager bounce? Does it exist? I don’t have the time to trawl through the data but I’ve always felt there was a semblance of truth in it and we’ll get to test the theory on Saturday.
Likewise, the international break is often referred to as a handicap for big clubs the weekend after it finishes and Arsenal have struggled in recent years at this particular point of the season.
In October 2014 they surrendered two home points at the hands of Hull and in 2012 were beaten 1-0 by Norwich at Carrow Road. It’s something to be wary of when backing Arsenal at short odds.
Another thing to factor in is Arsenal’s poor record against Swansea. Arsene Wenger’s side have won just one of their last five encounters with the Swans winning at the Emirates in each of the past two seasons. I’ll back them at 11/9 with a 1.5 goal start with Marathon Bet.
Stoke v Sunderland | Saturday 15:00
It’s only when you look at the Sunderland team sheet do you realise just how poor the team is. I thought David Moyes would be able to have an impact in the North East but this team needs major surgery to compete in the division and I’m taking them on on Saturday.
One position above Sunderland in the table in 19th place is Stoke. It’s hard to pinpoint where it’s gone so wrong this season for Mark Hughes and his team but I’m willing to believe that things will turn.
One theory is like Everton under Moyes they’ve simply become slow starters. At this point of the season last year they were in 17th position with just one win from their first seven games yet kicked on to finish in the Top 10.
We could see a similar thing this time round and a win over Sunderland looks like an ideal start to get the engine fired up again. At 17/16 with Marathon Bet it looks an appealing bet.
As I’ve mentioned I think Sunderland are a poor side and Stoke are quite a bit better than them. 12 points and eight positions separated them last season and that was after Stoke dropping off the pace in the Spring while Sunderland fought like dogs.
16 points were between the sides in 2014/15 and it was 12 points in Hughes’ first season in charge in 2013/14. They’re just a far better side than the North East outfit.
Neither of these sides have won a game this Premier League season yet so goals should be at a premium as nerves kick in but I think Stoke will be too strong at the Bet365 for Sunderland.
Manchester United and Chelsea were both beaten in Stoke last season and I fear for Sunderland on Saturday. At odds against they have to be opposed.
Chelsea v Leicester – Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals (21/20 Marathon Bet)
Arsenal v Swansea – Swansea +1.5 (11/9 Marathon Bet)
Stoke v Sunderland – Stoke to win (17/16 Marathon Bet)