Chelsea were the big winners this week as although all of the teams in the top-four hunt secured three points, it was Rafael Benitez’s men who passed the toughest assignment.
Juan Mata’s deflected strike in the closing minutes at Old Trafford meant the Blues were able to match the 1-0 score-lines posted by rivals Tottenham and Arsenal the day before and regain their lead of one point in third place.
Defeat of the champions was more impressive in every way than the largely unconvincing victories of Arsenal and Tottenham who relied on a rapid start and Gareth Bale respectively to edge their wins.
However, odds of 1/14 for Chelsea and 2/7 on Arsenal making their annual return to the Nyon ball bag makes no appeal with Spurs’ victory further evidence that their reputations as late-season chokers could be fading.
After gathering only one point from a possible 12 before their home match against Man City in April few anticipated the rousing 3-1 success against last year’s league winners and although a draw against Wigan earlier in the season would have to have been described as disappointing, everyone knows that Roberto Martinez’s team are a different animal when the destiny of next season is entering the furnace. In their last three matches Tottenham could have lived up to their expectations, but each time have refused to do so.
Fixtures away to Stoke and at home to Sunderland are more than feasible examinations, especially if their Premier League status’ are guaranteed, and so a point against Chelsea before that could be enough to send them back to the European top table.
Arsenal supporters will be quick to cite their superior goal difference – an extra point don’t you know – and remaining fixtures against Wigan at home , days after the Latics’ FA Cup final – and struggling Newcastle away, but there is more than enough pitfalls in those challenges to think that six points will be beyond them.
As a result, odds of 15/8 with Ladbrokes that Tottenham bring to an end Arsenal’s run of 15 years consecutive participation in the Champions League is the selection. Confidence has returned to Bale and company and when they have that they are more likely to score the goals required in the final weeks.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date