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Chelsea 2018-19 Betting Preview: Sarri Will Have His Work Cut Out For Him

Aug 01, 2018 11:56 PM EDT

Chelsea 2018-19 Premier League Betting Odds

  • To Win Title: +1400
  • To Be Relegated: +50000
  • Point Total: 70.5 (Over -170/Under +140)

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Chelsea are a very different team than they were last season. Antonio Conte is out and Maurizio Sarri is in. The two Italians couldn’t be further apart on the tactical spectrum. Conte was all about defense and strict positioning. He built a side that maintained their defensive structure at all costs. They were difficult to break down, but, as they often left attacking to only two players, could struggle to score. In Conte’s first season, that problem didn’t rear its ugly head, and they won the title. In his second it did, and the team finished fifth.

Sarri, on the other hand, joins Chelsea from Napoli, where he managed a swashbuckling attacking side, one that was committed to moving the ball in midfield and building attacks that pulled opposing defenses out of position. His defensive line played high, his midfielders had freedom to move all over the field — both vertically and horizontally — and his forwards relentlessly attacked the opponent’s goal. It’s a complete stylistic 180.

At the moment, Chelsea are favored to do a little better, with the price on over 70.5 points coming in at -170 (5Dimes). That probably has something to do with the addition of Jorginho, who followed Sarri from Napoli.

Chelsea struggled at times to find a solid pairing for defensive superstar N’Golo Kante last season. Cesc Fabregas didn’t bring enough defensive work to the table, and Tiemoue Bakayoko didn’t bring enough skill on the ball. Jorginho fits the complementary role perfectly. He’s both a metronomic passer and a defensive presence, able to help a team exert control over a game with or without the ball.

Chelsea’s midfield might be more settled than those of past seasons, but their attack remains very much in flux. The transfer rumors are swirling around star winger Eden Hazard as Real Madrid look to replace Cristiano Ronaldo. Hazard’s opposite, Willian, is apparently sought after by his old manager Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, and Chelsea have been making eyes at Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain, hoping that the 30-year-old star, who was managed by Sarri at Napoli, has a few great years left in him.

Bet to Watch

A front three of Hazard, Alvaro Morata and Willian is formidable. And it’s certainly reasonable to take the short odds and the over on Chelsea based on the assumption that those three will power the attack. But the more that attack gets upended, the more uncertain Chelsea’s future becomes. If Chelsea hold onto those three players, I would take the Over 70.5 points.

Despite Higuain’s track record, it’s not at all clear that he will be better this season than Morata will be at 25. Hazard could fetch Chelsea a lot of money, but it seems unlikely they’d be able to reinvest it before the transfer window closes on opening day. Willian, who turns 30 on Aug. 9, is the best candidate to leave, but as with Hazard, as the deadline approaches it gets harder and harder to replace lost talent, even if a sale makes sense on its own merit.

Ultimately, while it’s clear Chelsea will be very different this season, whether or not they will be better is still a very open question. If Sarri can deploy Hazard, Morata and Willian, then it’s a good bet to expect them to improve on last season. If they don’t, they’ll struggle to match even last season’s somewhat disappointing results.

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