What a weekend it was last time for Chelsea, who extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points following a routine 2-0 home win over Hull. That was expected, but what really made it a great weekend was the way their rivals struggled. Apart from Arsenal, who won via a 99th minute penalty at home to Burnley, all the other teams in the top six dropped points.
Liverpool inexplicably lost at home to bottom club Swansea, Man Utd could only draw away at Stoke and Man City and Tottenham Hotspur played out a pulsating 2-2 draw. City were unlucky not to claim all three points and poor refereeing cost them, and a win for Pep Guardiola’s men would probably have suited Chelsea better as Tottenham had emerged as the most likely contenders to the throne. Still, their winning run has been halted and they looked poor at the back without the injured Jan Vertonghen, who is set for a spell on the sidelines.
The bookmakers acted accordingly and shortened the odds on Chelsea winning the title. They are now as low as 4/9 to win it, with Arsenal and Tottenham both out at 9/1. Chelsea now have an eight-point lead over Arsenal and are nine clear of Spurs, so things are looking very rosy indeed for Antonio Conte, who will be further cheered by the goal-scoring return of star striker Diego Costa. They are also 10 points ahead of Liverpool, 12 ahead of City and 14 ahead of Utd. It is a remarkable achievement considering they were written off in October after they lost 3-0 to Arsenal. They have won 15 out of 16 league games since then and look to be careering towards the title.
But the next two games could well decide their season. Chelsea are now facing a pivotal time in their bid to win a second title in three seasons as they face Liverpool and then Arsenal within a five-day period. Chelsea have been going into games as odds-on favourites for a long time, but a 5dimes review of the odds shows that the Blues are not odds-on for either of their next two games.
Chelsea have only lost three times this season, and two of them were at the hands of Liverpool and Arsenal. No bookmaker has Chelsea as favourites for their away trip to Liverpool, with many favouring the Reds heavily. Chelsea are favourites to beat Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, but the bookies expect it to be close and Chelsea are above evens.
Of course, both of those defeats came before Chelsea switched to a three at the back system and went on a rampage. But their form against the top sides is cause for concern. In four games against the other sides in the top four, they have won just one and lost three. They would probably be satisfied with drawing both games. That would ensure two key rivals missed a chance of closing the gap on them and would inch them closer to the title. The worry is that Tottenham would win twice and close the gap, but they do look like they may struggle without Vertonghen.
The following game for Chelsea is also tough as they travel to Turf Moor, where Burnley – a terrible side on the road – have been in superb form in front of their home fans. If Chelsea can come out of this tricky period with a decent lead still intact, the title should be theirs.