If you cast your mind back a year or so, you may remember January being the defining month in Leicester City’s bizarre and dare we say extraordinary assault on the Premier League title.
It was in and around this time that the Foxes not only picked up some huge scalps and crucial points, but also perhaps where they – and a number of pundits and punters – started believing that they could achieve what was thought of by many to be impossible.
On December 29 they drew 0-0 with Man City at home – a good result that ensured the Citizens were unable to close the gap at the top of the table. In January they picked up a fantastic 1-0 away win at Tottenham, who at the time were Leicester’s main rivals for the treasured trophy. And then, on February 2, they produced a virtuoso display to see off Liverpool 2-0.
The point we’re trying to make here is that January seems to be an important month for any side with aspirations of glory. With the FA Cup a nuisance (for some) plus the Champions League cranking back into gear soon, points won and lost now can go a long way to separating the wheat from the chaff come May.
It’s hugely relevant for the next seven days or so as well. On Tuesday night Chelsea travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool, before entertaining Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime. Six points, and they are home and housed. Four or three and the ball is still very much in their court. Two or less and ground will surely be gained by their main rivals.
So how will Antonio Conte’s side fare?
Liverpool vs Chelsea Betting Tips
With Diego Costa back in the camp and seemingly happy (or happier judging by the Spaniard’s ever present scowl), all is rosy for Conte and his troops. His players were afforded the weekend off, with his second-string taking to the field for the FA Cup clash with Brentford, and they will be fit and raring to go on Tuesday. Having tasted defeat against the Reds at Stamford Bridge earlier in the campaign, revenge will be sweet.
Liverpool have, generally, been excellent at Anfield this term, although cracks are starting to show. Defeat to Swansea last time out in the Premier League was followed by a heart-breaking loss at home against Southampton in midweek in the EFL Cup semi-final. Apparently Jurgen Klopp had issued a crisis team meeting with his players prior to the dust-up with the Saints, and so it is fair to say that that did not have the desired effect.
Also, and more worryingly, for the German is that his key players have gone off the boil. Daniel Sturridge looks a shadow of his former self, Phil Coutinho is still working his way back to full fitness and Adam Lallana has been shuffled out of position recently to cater for the absence of others. Indeed, the continued loss of Sadio Mane to African Cup of Nations duty has been dire for Klopp. The fact that his side have conceded in six of their last seven outings against top-flight opposition smashes the icing onto the cake.
There is nothing for Chelsea, with six wins from their last seven away days, to fear then; they look a fantastic proposition at 21/20 in the Draw No Bet market.
Chelsea vs Arsenal Betting Tips
On to Stamford Bridge on Saturday then, and if the Chelsea players have done their homework they will know how good their head-to-head record with the Gunners is since 2012: W7 D3 L2.
Arsene Wenger’s men are an excellent side, we know that, but with Mesut Ozil seemingly off the boil Arsenal have just two genuine outlets: the brain of Alexis Sanchez and the brawn of Olivier Giroud. That may not be enough to get a result at the Bridge.
The Gunners, who have 6/11 away games this season (budding mathematicians will know that that is a fraction more than half), have no Plan B; they are shoved onto the pitch in the same 4-2-3-1 system week in, week out. That is fine normally, but up against Chelsea’s still unique 3-4-2-1, will their inflexibility be punished?
Arsenal have won once at Stamford Bridge in the past eight years, and we don’t see that record changing here. The Blues, at 11/10, are excellent value once more.