Chelsea face an extremely tough test in Baku against Arsenal this week, and even the biggest Maurizio Sarri fans would not say we are anything other than a similarly inconsistent team.
With N’Golo Kante ruled out, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek a long term absentee in midfield too, we look weaker than ever, and despite not losing in our last few games, since Christmas we’ve barely been able to string two good games together.
Antonio Rudiger will sit out too taking away our most physically capable defender.
A punter lay betting on the game might consider “Arsenal to not lose” a smart bet, as they are likely to take us to extra time at least. Unless Eden Hazard does something special, we just don’t look like we have the firepower to beat Unai Emery’s team outright.
We can definitely see two teams who have played long seasons and travelled a long distance playing out a cautious first half. Both are very aware of their defensive weakness, and will probably play cautiously from the start to ease their way into the game.
If that happens, betting on fewer goals will be the move. Gonzalo Higuain and Olivier Giroud are Sarri’s only options up front, and neither looks spectacular. Giroud has managed plenty of goals this season in Europe, but only really against the true minnows.
Whoever our boss picks, they’re not going to be a prolific goalscorer of the type Arsenal have. Our slow passing rhythm could lead to a very dull game at first, at least until David Luiz or Shkodran Mustafi has the chance to do something stupid.
Emery is a pragmatic coach, and after the end to end game at Stamford Bridge earlier this season saw his side sky a couple of golden chances before being ripped open on the counter in a wild first half, he is sure to want a more controller approach himself.
With both coaches looking to keep things tight at least at first, and a depleted Chelsea team shorn of it’s most dynamic runner and it’s only midfield goalscoring threat other than Hazard, a tense draw going to extra time looks a tasty option for anyone wanting to wager on what we predict could be a bit of a stinker.
Then again, both teams have a couple of brilliant attackers, and all it takes is an early strike to throw all our predictions out the window. Arsenal’s goalkeeper Bernd Leno has made a couple of mistakes these season, and we look set to be very weak at the back.
As always, football is a tricky game to predict.