Chelsea are a team on the up – and oddsmakers are beginning to take notice.
The odds on the Blues finishing in the top four were shortened prior to the international break – such was the impact the team made after a shaky opening to the season. And they are certainly strongly fancied to pick up another three points this weekend.
Chelsea are 4/13 favourites at home versus Newcastle (9/1) despite the Magpies already recording impressive wins over Tottenham (1-0 away) and Man United (1-0 home) this season.
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Looking at Newcastle’s overall performance, those wins stand out as anomalies. They have also been shellacked 5-0 at Everton and lost 3-1 to a Norwich side that sits second-last in the Prem. Chelsea’s sluggish 1-2-1 start to the year has given way to a 3-0-1 stretch in which the Blues have averaged 3 goals per game.
The odds are steep, but trajectory of Frank Lampard’s men points to a third straight win.
Key players on the way back
The hugely encouraging thing for Chelsea fans is that their side looks likely to become even stronger over the course of the next few weeks and indeed months.
The return to fitness of N’Golo Kante and Callum Hudson-Odoi is a huge boost and getting Antonio Rudiger back from injury should make a big difference as well. Plus there’s young full-back Reece James back in contention after his ankle problem, not to mention Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s gradual recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon.
So as good as Chelsea have been recently, there is every reason to believe they can get better still.
Another reason for optimism is that Lampard could get the green light to bring in reinforcements sooner rather than later.
The two-window transfer ban imposed by UEFA is due to end next summer but a successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport would see it lifted in January. That would pave the way for Lampard to significantly improve a squad that already looks full of potential.
It would also probably lead to players leaving on loan rather than falling down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge. Could Christian Pulisic be one of them? With the Americam struggling to establish himself as a first-team player, don’t bet against him spending the second half of the season elsewhere.