Chelsea host Aston Villa in the Premier League on Monday in a 5:30pm kick-off at Stamford Bridge.
The two sides come into the game level on points, although Villa do have two games in hand on Frank Lampard’s side.
Chelsea are looking to bounce back from the disappointing Boxing Day defeat at Arsenal, while Dean Smith’s side will be without Tyrone Mings after the defender was sent off in the 3-0 win against Crystal Palace.
The Blues are 4/6 favourites to win the match, with the draw 31/10 and a Villa win 15/4.
As usual, while they’re obviously right to be favourites, I think Chelsea are far too short here. Aston Villa have won five of their six away games this season, remarkably keeping clean sheets in all of those wins, and have not failed to score on the road.
Chelsea have been stronger at Stamford Bridge, though, taking 14 points from seven home games. I can envisage it being a pretty even encounter, and a potentially niggly one, especially with the amount of tired legs likely to be on the pitch.
Stuart Attwell officiates the clash, which is usually good news for card backers. The 38-year-old has shown each side a card in all seven of his PL games this season – and in 18 of his last 19 top-flight matches – as well as both teams two or more bookings each in five out of seven this season and in 13 of his last 19 PL games.
Villa are averaging more than two cards per game themselves having picked up 26 yellow cards and two reds in 13 matches, with Chelsea picking up 17 yellows and one red in 15 games.
Eight of Chelsea’s last 10 opponents have picked up two or more yellow cards, with nine of Villa’s 13 opponents this season doing likewise. Indeed, Smith’s side are by far the most fouled team in the league, largely due to the dribbling ability of the unbelievably talented Jack Grealish.
Nothing is guaranteed in betting, but this match has cards written all over it, then. I’m more than happy to back both teams to pick up 1+ card while backing 4+ cards to be shown in the match at evens:
Alternatively, you can back both teams to pick up 2+ cards at 2/1, but I’ll play safe due to Chelsea’s relatively clean record.
If you’re looking for a bigger price, I really like the look of both teams to score, pick up 2+ cards, and earn 4+ corners at 13/2. As mentioned, Villa have scored in every away game this season, while Chelsea have scored 3+ goals in five of their seven home games this season.
Moreover, seven of Chelsea’s last eight games have seen both teams earn 4+ corners, with the Villains winning 4+ in their last 10 PL games.
In terms of player cards, I think N’Golo Kante looks a cracking price at 4/1 (Bet Victor). I expect Jorginho to start at the base of the midfield, with Kante moved to the right and duly tasked with tracking, tackling and fouling Grealish. 12 central midfielders have been booked against Villa already this season, with most of those being the nominally right-sided one, and Kante has been booked three times this season.
I also successfully backed Kante to make 3+ tackles against Arsenal at odds-against, so I’m amazed to see him priced at 5/4 (Sky Bet) to do so again. Admittedly, his tackle rate does drop when paired with Jorginho, but I think this trend can be offset by Grealish’s ability to draw tackles and fouls.
I also like the look of right-backs Matty Cash (10/3, Sky Bet) and Cesar Azpilicueta (11/2, Betfair) to be carded. I expect Reece James to be rested with the Spaniard coming in, and Grealish often drifts to the left flank, Christian Pulisic is a mazy dribbler himself and the American could be deployed against Cash, with the former Nottingham Forest man booked five times in 12 games already this season.
Azpilicueta has made 4+ tackles in two of his four league starts this season, with Cash landing six last time out against Palace, so I like the idea of combining both to make 3+ alongside Kante. The trio to be booked, meanwhile, is a very appealing 100/1 (Betfair).
Lastly, Anwar El Ghazi has starred since coming into the side for Trezeguet in recent weeks, recording 13 shots on target and three goals in three starts. He has not faced any side with the calibre of Chelsea, but 8/1 for the Dutchman to land 3+ shots on target again is a big price given his form.