MARK O'HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his verdict on Super Sunday's showdown between Chelsea and Wolves at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea v Wolves | Sunday 10th March 2019, 14:05 | Sky Sports
Wolves have done so much more than just consolidate their place in the Premier League since promotion. The Old Gold are challenging to finish ‘best of the rest’ behind the Big Six following a hugely impressive return to the top-flight.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad have displayed style, panache, hunger and bravery in their business this term and deservedly sit inside the top-half coming into this weekend’s trip to the capital. And there’s plenty of reason to believe Wanderers can keep their contest at Stamford Bridge competitive despite the bulbous quotes on an away day success.
Wolves have returned W3-D3-L3 when taking on the Big Six in 2018/19; admittedly one of those matches came against a second-string Liverpool side in the FA Cup, but there’s enough evidence to suggest this side have the capability to keep Chelsea in-check on Sunday. After all, the Old Gold have already W1-D2-L1 at Big Six teams in league action.
In four of Wolves’ last five away days, market support has been significant in Wanderers’ favour – the only encounter that didn’t was a trip to table-topping Manchester City. The Black Country boys were clipped from 9/1 to 15/2 before kick-off when winning at Tottenham, and moved from 3.20 to 2.90 ahead of the Old Gold’s visit of Everton.
Old Gold can stay competitive
Meanwhile, Wolves’ raw results also show a competitive streak with just six of 29 seeing Sunday’s guests lose out by a margin of two goals or more – two of those defeats came against City and Liverpool, the two teams that are streets ahead of the cashing pack across all facets. Being able to support Wolves with a +1.25 start has to appeal at 1.74 quotes.
That selection has provided profit in six of eight previous Premier League meetings with the Big Six under Nuno, as well as 23 of 29 games across the whole league campaign. And with a possibly tight tussle on the cards this weekend, the generous handicap has even more chance of landing in West London.
Only five clubs (all bottom-half dwellers) have seen fewer goals at home than Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri, whilst Newcastle are the only club to feature fewer goals on the road than Wolves; nine of those 14 away days produced a maximum of two goals. And that’s before we inspect the impressive performance data in Wanderers’ favour.
Nuno’s troops rank third in the Premier League for Expected Goals (xG) from open play ratio. Indeed, only the top two have conceded fewer xG from open play, whilst the full xG ratio rankings mark the Old Gold out as just 6% inferior to the Blues. The Black Country club have leaked only 35 goals and 13 of those arrived via shots from outside the box or penalties. So why the major discrepancy in pre-match pricing?
Chelsea answered their critics with brave displays against Man City and Spurs, although last Sunday’s trip to Fulham was far from conclusive evidence that the Blues are back to their best. The returning Kepa was given the Man of the Match award for a string of fine saves and Sarri suggested his squad were tired after a demanding week, which is fair enough.
Nevertheless, the Blues faced Dynamo Kiev on Thursday night in what’s becoming an increasingly more important competition. With no guarantee of a top-four finish, Chelsea must give the Europa League the focus and respect it deserves. Sarri again fielded a fairly strong XI but it’s a potential distraction that will eat into preparation time against a well-rested Wolves outfit.
Chelsea v Wolves – Wolves +1.25 Asian Handicap (14/19 188BET)