Chelsea v Leeds United: Blues to see off Whites in lively clash
Chelsea and Leeds United have both been impressive this season, but Kevin Hatchard believes the hosts will come out on top this weekend...
Chelsea v Leeds United
Saturday 05 December, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Four-midable Giroud the latest nice problem for Lampard
When a striker who hasn't been a first-team regular bashes in a winner in one Champions League away game, and then fires in all four goals in the next one, you know you have a decent squad. Chelsea's heavy investment in playing personnel is paying off, and competition for places is bringing out the best in players like Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman's incredible burst (his quadruple came in a 4-0 success at Sevilla) has put pressure on the likes of Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner, who will now feel they have to up their game.
In goal, Chelsea have made a significant upgrade by bringing in Edouard Mendy to replace the hapless Kepa. Mendy has helped the Blues post a sequence of eight clean sheets in 11 matches, and the fact that the skipper Cesar Azpilicueta has started just three Premier League games shows the defensive options Frank Lampard now has at his disposal.
This surfeit of quality has propelled Chelsea to the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners with a game to spare, and they are just two points off top spot in the Premier League.
They have won seven of their last eight games in all competitions, and they haven't lost inside 90 minutes since a 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool in late September. Across their last seven games at Stamford Bridge, they have racked up 20 goals.
Lampard has no significant injury concerns, and the recent return of Kai Havertz (COVID-19) and Billy Gilmour (injury) has swelled the ranks further. Giroud seems likely to keep his place as the attacking spearhead, with Timo Werner playing wide.
Bielsa keen to forget Spygate debacle
Anyone who has studied the career of Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa in any detail will soon come to the conclusion that the Argentinean is unorthodox, and West Brom manager Slaven Bilic recently described him as crazy, but in a very positive way. That unusual approach manifested itself in Bielsa's crude attempt to spy on Derby County's training when Frank Lampard was the Rams' boss, a notorious incident that was dubbed as "Spygate".
Bielsa insists he doesn't have a poor relationship with Lampard, and the traditional enmity between Leeds and Chelsea has surely faded with time. The battles of the 1960s and 1970s that pitted big characters Norman "Bites Yer Legs" Hunter and Jack Charlton against the likes of Peter Osgood and Eddie McCreadie are in the distant past. After all, Leeds were relegated from the Premier League in 2004, and since then the Blues have won pretty much all there is to win at home and abroad.
The current Leeds side is in a strong position after ten games of their top-flight return. The Whites are a healthy eight points clear of the bottom three, and they just produced an impressive 1-0 win at Everton. Had it not been for the woodwork and a series of saves from Toffees keeper Jordan Pickford, Leeds could have rattled in three of four goals. Indeed, if you look at the Expected Goals figures from Infogol, Leeds have posted an xG total of at least 1.5 in five of their ten league games, and they have topped 2.0 on four occasions.
Spanish defender Diego Llorente is back after injury, and is pushing hard for a starting spot. Robin Koch would probably be the one to make way if Llorente was to start.
Chelsea can boost title hopes
Leeds outplayed Everton, and should have beaten Arsenal in their previous PL game, but this is a step up. Chelsea are playing some wonderful football, they have a fully fit squad to choose from, and they have found a steely streak since the arrival of Mendy.
I can't see Bielsa compromising his attacking style, and that should allow Chelsea's cadre of talented forwards and attacking midfielders to thrive. It's worth remembering that Leeds lost 4-3 at Liverpool, 4-1 at Crystal Palace and 4-1 at home to Leicester. When it goes wrong for the Whites, there are usually plenty of goals.
I think Chelsea can justify their favouritism here, and I'll use the Sportsbook's Same Game Multi (see our special SGM offer below to double up a Chelsea win and Over 2.5 Goals at 1.99.
Giroud to maintain purple patch?
After his four-goal salvo against Sevilla in midweek, it would be a surprise if Olivier Giroud didn't start this match, and the 34-year-old has scored in three of his last five games for club and country. If Giroud starts, he's worth backing in the To Score market at 11/10.
On the Leeds side, Patrick Bamford has only found the net in one of his last four games, but he gets into good positions constantly, and his chunky price of 12/5 to score is an attractive one.
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