Chelsea vs Zenit | Tuesday 14th September 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
Chelsea start their Champions League defence against Zenit at Stamford Bridge. And the Russian league winners look like the perfect opponents to begin their campaign.
The Blues are as big as 8/1 in the outright market to lift the trophy once more. PSG and Man City take a huge chunk out of the market, but with question marks about both, you could argue that Thomas Tuchel’s side are the ones who tick most boxes given their squad depth and quality.
In the league, Chelsea have got off to an unbeaten start (W3, D1), only dropping points in their 1-1 draw at Anfield. Although, they did ride their luck at times against Aston Villa until Jorginho’s half-time introduction shored things up somewhat.
That 3-0 scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the 90 minutes, with Villa winning the xG battle, having more efforts and more shots on target. But I doubt we’ll see summer signing Saul here as Tuchel tries to ease him into his surroundings.
While Zenit sit in their usual spot at the summit of the Russian Premier League table with 17 points from seven games, the points they’ve dropped have been on the road. And it’s their away form which must be the big concern on their arrival into London.
Zenit’s European struggles
The Russians were knocked out in last year’s group stages after picking up just one point, which came in a home draw to Lazio. Their three away games resulted in 2-0, 3-1 and 3-0 defeats, with the latter coming against Club Brugge, so weaker opposition than they’ll face here.
It was a similar story 12 months before with another bottom of the table finish in the 19/20 competition. Despite picking up seven points, their goal difference was worse than that of Benfica.
But once again, there were plenty of away-day blues. After drawing their first away game in that campaign 1-1 with Lyon, they fell to back-to-back defeats against RB Leipzig (2-1) and Benfica (3-0), which proved costly.
So, in their last two Champions League campaigns, Zenit have an away record of P6, W0, D1, L5. On top of that, they’ve scored just three goals and conceded 14 goals in those trips.
The betting angles
With Chelsea huge favourites to start with a win, it’s trying to dig out any angles that could lead to profit. The best way to do that here could be by dutching a couple of correct scores.
If you’ve not done this before, dutching sees you split your stake over a couple/several selections, so that you can try to land profit.
And this method seems to be worth utilising since Tuchel has taken over at Stamford Bridge. In 35 matches in all competitions, he’s won 23 and 18 of those have seen the Blues keep a clean sheet. That’s 78% of games where they’ve managed a shutout.
Break that down further and Chelsea have won 2-0 nine times, 1-0 seven times and 3-0 twice – both this season.
You could play all three of those using the dutching method, but I think Chelsea will have far too much for Zenit, especially when you’ve seen the Russian sides record on the road. So, I’m ruling out the 1-0 in my bets, which could backfire!
The 2-0 (5/1) and 3-0 (6/1) correct scores look the ones to back, with three of Zenit’s last four Champions League away defeats coming by those scores.
The other play I’m taking is Zenit midfielder Daler Kuzyaev to be carded, which is best priced at 63/20 with Sporting Index. But with a more typical sportsbook, you can get this at 13/5.
Looking through Zenit’s record in this competition, they aren’t shy of picking up cards. Their last six away games have seen 4, 1, 4, 2, 3 & 2. Six of those have been in the first half with 10 in the second.
But going back to Kuzyaev, he’s picked up cards in half (3/6) of his Russian Premier League appearances this season, including being dismissed for a second bookable offence in their away game at Lokomotiv Moscow.
In the whole of the Russian Premier League, the central midfielder ranks in the top 10 for fouls per game (1.7). While the 28-year-old has committed more fouls than any other Zenit player this season (10).
Chelsea’s Premier League opponents have picked up seven cards. Although centre-halves seem vulnerable, three central midfielders have found their way into the referee’s notebook – Arsenal’s Albert Sambi Lokonga, as well as Villa’s John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey.
So, a player who is combative against a side that can draw fouls and cards from their opponents gives this leg. But add in a card-happy referee and then it must make the list.
Polish official Bartosz Frankowski is the man in the middle. He took charge of one UCL qualifier and he managed to show seven cards with it going to extra-time. He also had a qualifier in each of the UEL and ECL, where he showed 15 cautions.
This will only be his second appearance in the group stage of the UCL. His previous saw him show seven cards and give a penalty, as Sevilla beat Stade Rennais 3-1.
This season, he’s shown 20 yellows in four Ekstraklasa games, an average of five cards per game. His match at the weekend saw him show nine, so let’s just say he’s not afraid to throw them around when necessary.
In a game that Chelsea should dominate from the get-go, I’ll dutch two correct scores and take Zenit’s tough-tackling midfielder as the main plays.
Chelsea vs Zenit – Chelsea to win 2-0 (5/1 Mansion Bet)
Chelsea vs Zenit – Chelsea to win 3-0 (6/1 Bet Victor)
Chelsea vs Zenit – Daler Kuzyaev to be carded (13/5 Paddy Power)