Benitez pressure eases as Torres fires Chelsea back on track
With another day of frenetic Premier League action in the books, Fernando Torres’ rediscovery of goalscoring form was perhaps the most notable emanating story.
Torres’ second brace of the week took his tally to 11 seasonal strikes in all competitions, and underlined the notion that Rafa Benitez’ management can get the best out of the Spaniard.
His two-goal haul came in a 3-1 win at Sunderland, and put Chelsea back on track to ensure they eventually justify 1/6 odds to finish in the top four this season.
A title tilt looks a step too far, although league success may be the only thing that can endear Benitez to the Blues faithful, and it is 14/1 they top the table.
Meanwhile, we are likely to see money for Sunderland to be relegated, after the latest in a sequence of 23 games which has yielded only two wins.
The Black Cats currently occupy a position in the bottom three, and it is 5/2 they find themselves there come the end of the campaign.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, two sides earlier fancied for relegation played out a cracker at the Liberty Stadium, as Norwich, unbeaten in nine, got the better of in-form Swansea.
Chris Hughton’s men raced to a 3-0 half-time lead in Wales, and after their superb recent run, now find themselves 7/1 to go down this term.
And even in defeat, Swansea’s signing of the season contender Michu continued to prove his worth to Michael Laudrup’s side.
The Spanish midfielder leads the Premier League goal chart with 12 league strikes, and is now an 8/1 hope to remain there come the end of the season.
Robin Van Persie, who will line up in the Manchester derby this weekend, remains 7/4 favourite, whilst a rejuvenated Torres is a 20/1 shot.
In other noteworthy events from the weekend meanwhile, a double from Mikel Arteta helped Arsenal overcome surprise package West Brom 2-0 at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger’s side will tempt many at 5/6 to claim a top four spot, and need to build on this performance if they are to do so.
Relegation implications were rife in Saturday’s other fixtures meanwhile, as QPR’s 2-2 stalemate at Wigan meant Harry Redknapp has drawn his opening three Rs games.
It is 8/15 the winless Hoops are relegated, but with Redknapp such a shrewd operator in the transfer market, it may be best to hold off on that investment until after January.
Wigan are scarcely clear of the drop zone themselves, and remain 7/4 shots to be a Championship club next season, slightly shorter than 9/4 Aston Villa.
Paul Lambert insists he will not sell Darren Bent in January, and he did make an appearance off the bench for the Villains this weekend.
However, he failed to make an impact in a 0-0 draw with Stoke.
And Reading further cemented their credentials as 2/7 relegation candidates, suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Southampton.
That defeat saw the Royals six points adrift of safety, and the same margin behind the 15th placed Saints, who are now 10/11 to make an immediate Championship return.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.