CHELSEA head to Valencia on Wednesday evening on Matchday 5 of the Champions League. We asked Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) to analyses the odds and share his best bets.
Valencia v Chelsea | Wednesday 27th November 2019, 17:55 | BT Sport
Following a drama-filled season to date, Chelsea travel to Valencia for their penultimate Champions League group-stage match level on points with their Spanish opponents.
On Matchday 4, Chelsea produced a brilliant comeback to force a 4-4 draw with Ajax which typified the excitement and energy of Frank Lampard’s young side. Whilst there is still plenty for the inexperienced manager to work on, this team will only get better with more exposure on the big stage and these are the type of games where we will see what this squad is made of.
Chelsea will continue with the 4-3-3 formation which has held them in good stead for much of the season. The Blues won the possession battle at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday in their 2-1 defeat to Manchester City, something which very few teams have done against a Pep Guardiola side.
Valencia are struggling with injuries in midfield at the moment with the likes of Francis Coquelin, Denis Cheryshev, Goncalo Guedes and enforcer Geoffery Kondogbia all missing the weekend's defeat to a Real Betis side which deservedly picked up a late, late win.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have a number of in-form men to pick from in the middle of the park with N'Golo Kante, Mason Mount, Jorginho and Mateo Kovavic all vying for a starting berth and I think this is where Chelsea will have an advantage on Wednesday evening no matter which of the three get the nod.
The 1-0 scoreline in the reverse game at Stamford Bridge does not tell the whole story in a match that could have been a whole lot different had Ross Barkly converted his penalty a few minutes from time. The Blues dominated the match but were punished for failing to convert their chances with Rodrigo nodding in from a set-piece – something which has been one of this young side's downfalls on occasion since the beginning of the season.
Blues to target aerial duels
The aforementioned 4-3-3 formation should force Valencia out wide but with Chelsea sitting first out of the 32 group stage teams for successful aerial duels, I don't think their players will be too worried about balls coming in from wide areas if they can get their marking right.
Given that aerial prowess, I think it's only right to look at the other end of the pitch too especially given how often Chelsea have hit the back of the net away from home in the campaign.
A man who will feel he should have scored in that 1-0 defeat to the Spaniards back in September is Tammy Abraham. The England forward won six aerial duels alone up against Valencia's backline and had five shots, more than any other player on the pitch.
With 12 goals to his name in all competitions, I think the striker could bag if he's given opportunity to bully the centre-backs again and at 23/20 with Unibet, I'm willing to back him to lead the away side's charge with a goal anytime in the match. Three of those five attempts against Valencia in the two team’s first encounter came with Abraham’s head so the 11/1 at SkyBet on him to score a header looks a nice little outside play.
Since that reverse game, Chelsea have won 10 of their last 16 games and that blank in front of goal was only the second time Frank Lampard's men have failed to score in 20 games in 2019/20 which signifies how much of a front-foot mentality has been installed since the change in management over the summer.
Both teams scored four times on their last outing in this competition and although the excitement of that Ajax match is unlikely to be replicated, I want to get goals onside here again alongside Chelsea getting a result of some form given the way they are playing.
Combining Over 1.5 Goals, Chelsea double chance and Over 2.5 Cards is 4/5 with Bet365 which I am certainly going to play. When bringing league, domestic cup and European games together for these two teams, Over 1.5 Goals has landed in 80% of their 40 combined contests.
On the cards front, although Felix Zwayer is not the most card-prolific referee compared to some of his fellow officials in his tournament, he has dished out at least three cards in 15 of the last 16 games where he has been the man in the middle including 16 in his last 3 Champions League games.
The likes of Jorginho, who is carded frequently, is one of a few players that have put in more tackles and conceded more fouls per-game in the Champions League compared to the Premier League so cards could flow, especially considering how important the match is to both sides with the winner putting one foot into the knockout stages.
Valencia have the small matter of a derby game with Villarreal to content with on Saturday so will need to manage their depleted squad through both games and with their inconsistent form and lack of midfield ball control, I think Chelsea will be confident of winning the game. Given Valencia's propensity to draw though, the Chelsea double chance gives a bit more insurance.
The last time Chelsea played at the Mestalla was back in 2011/12, the season they went on to lift the Champions League trophy in Munich. A certain Frank Lampard got Chelsea's only goal of that game (whatever happened to him?!) and the returning Blues manager may just feel that a win here would be a sign that something special could just happen with this young group of players who seem to play without fear no matter the opponents.