City to stop Benitez beginning Bridge reign with a bang


Sunday 4.00pm

ROMAN Abramovich’s revolving door just keeps on revolving. Before Rafael Benitez had even been confirmed as his ninth appointment since 2003 than speculation began on Pep Guardiola replacing him next summer.

Only a major trophy is likely to see Benitez remain in the hottest of hot seats beyond May, and the chances of the Blues defending their Champions League title took a hammer blow in Turin on Tuesday.

Defeat to Juventus saw Chelsea pushed out to 50/1 to retain the crown the Russian prizes above all others. They now need snookers to even qualify for the knockout stages.

Abramovich has shown in the past that the FA and League Cups are mere baubles. As a result, former Liverpool boss Benitez will have to land the club’s first Premier League title since 2009/10 if he’s to have any chance of an extended stay.

And with champions Manchester City visiting Stamford Bridge on Sunday the Spaniard has no time to ease himself into the new job.

Defeats to Manchester Untied and West Brom and draws with Swansea and Liverpool in their last four fixtures have seen Chelsea drop from first to third, with City opening up a four-point lead over the Blues.

The West Londoners simply cannot afford to watch that gap grow.

There’s little to choose between the sides at the bookies, with Coral offering the hosts at 6/4 and Mancini’s men at 7/4. I admit I’m finding it tough to split them too.

Chelsea might have won the previous two contests at Stamford Bridge, but City are the last remaining unbeaten team in English football. They’ll also be smarting after Champions League ignominy of their own.

Backing the draw at 23/10 with Coral could be the smart move. It’s a result that both managers would settle for in the current circumstances and, after so many entertaining games in recent weeks, I wonder whether this might be one that can’t quite live up to its billing.

I see it being a guarded, closely-fought affair, with the 1-1 draw tempting at a general 13/2 and a sell of total goals recommended at 3.0 with Sporting Index.

Despite persisting with the misfiring Fernando Torres, Di Matteo was unable to get the best out of the striker. With every game that passes, his best days look further and further behind him.

But if anyone can resurrect his career it is the man who watched from the dugout as Torres scored 56 times in 79 Premier League starts while the the pair where together at Liverpool.

His Chelsea record is far less impressive with 11 goals in 58 starts. Yet I’d be amazed if he didn't start and, at 7/1 to notch the first goal, he is decent value to turn back the clock for one game at least.

■ Pointers…
Draw at 23/10 with Coral
1-1 correct score at 13/2 (general)
Sell total goals at 3.0 with Sporting Index

Tomorrow 5.30pm

FRESH from victory in the North London derby, and after cementing their place in the Champions League last 16, Arsenal should be looking forward to their impending trip to Villa Park.

It is a ground on which they have a fine record. Unbeaten since December 1998, they’ve won seven of their last 13 visits, including each of their last two.

In marked contrast, these are worrying times for their hosts.

An awful start to the season has seen the Villains chalk up just two wins and three draws in their opening 12 fixtures. They also come in to this one on the back of a 5-0 thrashing against Manchester City.

Results show that Arsenal have lost their last two on the road – at Old Trafford and Carrow Road. But the more telling statistic reveals Villa have picked up a meagre five points at home thus far.

Coral’s 8/11 for an away win looks a solid bet, therefore.

Villa have at least managed to score in all of their home games, however, so it may be worth backing Arsenal to win 2-1 in the correct score market at 7/1 with the same firm.

■ Pointers…
Arsenal at 8/11 with Coral
2-1 correct score at 7/1 with Coral