Chelsea have been top of the Premier League table for most of the season but bookmakers are still siding with Manchester City retaining their title.
The odds between the top two teams are close though – with William Hill’s 4/5 the best price available on City while 5/2 is widely available on Chelsea across several top betting sites.
Liverpool are next in the pecking order at 4/1 in what is considered a three-horse race, although the staying power of the Reds is in doubt amid a growing injury list and the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.
All other teams are 40/1 or longer in the Premier League outright betting, but Chelsea’s price of 5/2 is the one that offers most appeal as they look every inch a title-winning team so far, with 26 points collected from the opening 11 games.
The Christmas period will be a real test of their resolve, although it is for any side, but let us not forget that Chelsea are the reigning European champions and have only strengthened their squad since beating City in the Champions League final last May.
Blues boss Thomas Tuchel is looking to replicate what his compatriot Jurgen Klopp achieved at Liverpool by winning the Champions League and Premier League in back-to-back seasons, but former Chelsea midfielder Emmanuel Petit has warned that it’s no easy feat.
“It’s always difficult for a team that has just won the Champions League to go on and follow it up with a trophy like the Premier League straight after,” Petit told bookmakers.co.uk.
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“But if you look at the players and the options that Chelsea have got, there’s a real winning mentality. They have character, personality and very good players in every position and there’s even still room to improve.
“Up front has been a bit of a problem position but in the meantime they’re winning games because they have other players who can score goals and make assists and they’ve really stepped up to take responsibility.
“Players like Reece James, Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso have all chipped in. If you look at the teams at the top at the moment, I think only Manchester City or Liverpool can trouble Chelsea.
“But with the number of players and the quality that Tuchel has got, they have enough to challenge all the way.
“When I look at Manchester City and Liverpool, I feel as though Liverpool are a little short of options and City can be short in certain areas too.
“There’s no doubt they are the three best teams, and for sure Chelsea have a great opportunity to come out on top because they have the ambition and the desire to win games.”
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Everybody Loves Kante
One of the key components of Tuchel’s Chelsea squad is France midfielder N'Golo Kante, who is hoping to win his third Premier League title this season having previously won it once with Leicester and once with Chelsea.
The tenacious 30-year-old is an outsider in the betting on the 2021 Ballon d’Or having been shortlisted for the award, and Petit is full of praise for both the player and the person Kante is.
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“I can’t find anyone who doesn’t love Kante in France,” he said. “It’s very rare for a player to have so much love but this is the case with Kante.
“We like him for the person he is but we like him for the player he is on the pitch as well. The way he plays, he’s so focussed on his own game, always wants to get the better of his opponent, but always with a smile and humility.
“It’s very rare to see someone like that in society, not just in football, but to find people like this anywhere in the world. He leads by example in so many ways.
“He displays honesty, the right behaviour, commitment and sacrifices. I would love to have played alongside him.”
Kante, who won the PFA player of the Year Award in 2016/17, is an outsider to win the gong again this year, with odds ranging from 25/1 with MansionBet to 80/1 with Bet365.
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Rudiger Contract Speculation
Another player who has been instrumental to Tuchel’s success at Chelsea is Antonio Rudiger, who had been frozen out by previous Blues boss Frank Lampard before being brought in from the cold by the German to great effect.
However, the Germany international has entered the final 12 months of his contract at Stamford Bridge and Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich are reportedly monitoring the situation.
German publication BILD claim Rudiger wants his salary doubled and that Bayern are willing to meet his demands, but Petit believes Chelsea should just pay up or be forced to spend even more in the transfer market.
“If he leaves, it would be a real pity for Chelsea,” said Petit. “If I remember correctly before Tuchel came in he was on the bench and wasn’t playing. Now he looks like one of the best defenders around.
“He could leave on a free and Chelsea would have to spend a minimum of £30million to find a new defender of his level, and there’s never a guarantee a buy will work out.
“If he asks for two more years, just give him the money.”
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Rudiger is known as a no-nonsense defender and Petit has compared him to an old Arsenal teammate who was renowned for striking fear into his opponents.
“This guy is a survivor,” said Petit of Rudiger. “Since Tuchel has been the manager he’s been one of the top defenders in world football.
“He reminds me of the crazy defenders I used to play with back in the day like Martin Keown. Those types of guys were always really tough on other players, and playing against them was both a physical and mental battle because they could make you feel bad on the pitch.
“I think Rudiger is similar, and it must be very tough to be on the pitch with him because you can disappear very quickly. He always plays the ball but he also plays the players and strikers know that and it can be intimidating.
“Sometimes he tries to destroy strikers, and I don’t really like that side of his game. But for me, the priority of a defender is to scare strikers. People might not understand that but it’s true, you have to scare them to try and stop them from scoring goals. For me, Rudiger is one of the hardest defenders in the world.”