THE EUROPA LEAGUE continues on Thursday night as Chelsea welcome Greek outfit PAOK to Stamford Bridge on matchday five. Gaurav Chaddah (@Gchaddahjourno) shares his betting thoughts.
Chelsea v PAOK | Thursday 29th November 2018, 18:00 | BT Sport
Matchday five of the Europa League sees outright favourites Chelsea welcome Greek league leaders PAOK to Stamford Bridge. The Blues have four wins from as many games in the competition thus far and repeat here will confirm top spot in the pool.
The visitors are still in with a chance of progression to the Last 32 but have endured a disappointing campaign, losing both home matches against Chelsea and Vidi, with only success arriving in a 4-1 triumph at BATE Borisov. Whilst this is a must win, the stats suggest the Greek side are well up against it.
The two met in the reverse fixture on matchday one back in September, where a seventh-minute Willian goal was enough for Chelsea to take the three points back to London. However, Maurizio Sarri’s men were extremely wasteful that night, with Alvaro Morata especially missing key chances.
Sarri set to ring changes
It’s fair to say Sarri has taken this competition seriously, often fielding strong sides, and due to that, Chelsea have already confirmed qualification.
Whilst the Italian boss will be key to wrap up top spot, he will be confident that any changes shouldn’t hinder Chelsea’s progression and you’d expect any line-up the hosts field will be good enough to claim victory here.
Eden Hazard is very unlikely to feature, whilst Sarri also hinted at a revamp in defence, with starts expected for Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta and Emerson. It’s unclear who Sarri will prefer up front, although the likelihood is for Olivier Giroud to lead the line.
PAOK are waiting on a fitness test for defender Fernando Varela but do have Leo Matos back from suspension. Any PAOK hopes massively rely on Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic, who has scored seven league goals in 10 games, as well as five goals in Europe.
Chelsea yet to unleash in Europe
Whilst Chelsea have do have a 100% record in the Europa League this season, it’s fair to say it hasn’t exactly been the fireworks one might of expected from the Blues.
As already mentioned, Sarri has often fielded strong sides yet three of Chelsea’s four wins were by a 1-0 scoreline, with the expectation being their 3-1 home success over BATE.
On paper, it did seem a weak group and whilst the table does suggest that, Chelsea have hardly steamrolled their opponents, and have been made to work in most matches, especially when their opponents seem to set up very deep and dogged in defence.
Whilst PAOK will be aware they need to win the game, it’s difficult to see them causing many problems for Chelsea and I’d expect them to sit in against the capital club.
Chelsea to win with minimal fuss
Regardless of any changes, Chelsea should comfortably win here against a PAOK side who have only scored in one game so far. The Greek side have lost all three games ‘to nil’, by either a 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline.
It is difficult to know what kind of mood Chelsea will be in, we know they have the ability to cut loose but for me, the best angle of attack is to follow the recent trends involving these two in this competition and support the Blues in their quest whilst keeping a clean sheet.
With that in mind, the safe bet here is Chelsea to win ‘to nil’, which is available at 23/20 with BetVictor.
Chelsea v PAOK – Chelsea to win ‘to nil’ (23/20 BetVictor)