IS it still too early to say Chelsea are home and hosed?
The Blues are nine points clear of Tottenham Hotspur with 14 games remaining and only two of the top six left to play.
Their next five opponents are Burnley, Swansea City, West Ham United, Watford and Stoke City – hardly the most fearsome clubs in the land.
The rest of the top four, however, is very much up in the air.
Liverpool’s spectacular slide has given Spurs and Manchester City an excellent run at automatic qualification for the Champions League, while the pressure on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is greater than ever after two straight defeats.
The problems at Anfield and the Emirates are a blessing for Manchester United, who are right back in the thick of things after capping three consecutive draws with a big win over Leicester City.
Speaking of the Foxes, the relegation picture is starting to come into focus.
They are one of six teams within two points of one another at the wrong end of the ladder, where Sunderland are propping up the division despite claiming four points from their last two outings.
Crystal Palace and Hull City are the other two in the drop zone, while Swansea, Leicester and Middlesbrough are a point clear.
With such tight margins, it could take just one result to flip the whole thing on its head.
There are some interesting fixtures in week 25, so let’s dive into the match odds, top tips and player specials at Sportsbet – our most trusted Premier League betting site.
Premier League match betting
All markets provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Arsenal -400 – Draw +500 – Hull +1000
Man United -400 – Draw +500 – Watford +1000
Middlesbrough +275 – Draw +230 – Everton +105
Stoke +105 – Draw +230 – Crystal Palace +270
Sunderland +260 – Draw +230 – Southampton +110
West Ham +105 – Draw +230 – West Brom +275
Liverpool +125 – Draw +230 – Tottenham +220
Burnley +700 – Draw +350 – Chelsea -250
Swansea +137 – Draw +230 – Leicester +200
Bournemouth +600 – Draw +350 – Man City -222.22
Arsenal vs. Hull City
12:30pm local time – Saturday, February 11, 2017 – Emirates Stadium
- Half-time draw/full-time Arsenal – +300
- Danny Welbeck first goalscorer – +400
Last week’s results make this match-up all the more interesting.
Arsenal chased their deplorable effort against Watford with a resounding defeat to Chelsea, who dominated from go to woe.
It is the same old story for the Gunners: a promising start, in the mix around Christmas and then out of the title race by March.
The calls for Wenger’s head are louder than ever, and now even the pundits are agreeing with the disgruntled Gunners fans.
Another loss this weekend and the Arsenal board might cock the hammer, if not pull the trigger.
And that is far from the realms of possibility, as Hull are enjoying something of a purple patch.
Having pinched a point at Old Trafford a few days prior, the Tigers backed up with a shock 2-0 victory over Liverpool at the KCOM.
They are still in the bottom three, but even a draw this weekend could see them climb into the safety zone for the first time since October.
Coach Marco Silva will have Ahmed Elmohamedy back from the Africa Cup of Nations, while Lazar Markovic will return after sitting out against his parent club last week.
Hull have not beaten Arsenal in any format since winning 2-1 in EPL 2008-09 on their first ever meeting, with Geovanni and Daniel Cousin on the score sheet.
Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur
5:30pm local time – Saturday, February 11, 2017 – Anfield
- Draw/both to score – +333
- Sadio Mane first goalscorer – +550 at Sportsbet
What has happened to Liverpool?
The Reds have not won a Premier League match since beating Man City on New Year’s Day.
The goals aren’t flowing like they were earlier in the season, so their fragile defence has become horribly exposed.
Most alarming is that three of Liverpool’s last five matches were against relegation fodder.
They drew with Sunderland, lost at home to Swansea and then failed to even find the score sheet at Hull.
A knee injury to centre-back Dejan Lovren has not helped, but there can be no excuses further afield now that Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Daniel Sturridge are all fit and available.
The Merseysiders will need to find something quick-smart if they wish to dodge the wrath of the Kop this weekend.
Tottenham are now Chelsea’s closest challengers, although they haven’t exactly fired on all cylinders in recent weeks.
They were held to a goalless stalemate by Sunderland and then crept past Middlesbrough through a second-half penalty from Harry Kane.
The England striker now has 14 goals from 19 appearances in Premier League 2016-17.
Spurs are still without the injured Jan Vertonghen, while star left-back Danny Rose is also iffy with a knee problem.
In even worse news for the Londoners, they have won none of their last eight league dates with Liverpool.
If we dig further, we will also find that they have conquered Anfield only once since 1993.
Burnley vs. Chelsea
1:30pm local time – Sunday, February 12, 2017 – Turf Moor
- Chelsea to win both halves – +240
- Pedro first goalscorer – +450
Until last weekend, only Arsenal and Manchester City had beaten Burnley on their own patch.
Then Watford came along and followed up their impressive win at the Emirates with a 2-1 result at Turf Moor.
Nevertheless, there are only two teams in the league – the top two, in fact – with better home records than the Clarets.
Sean Dyche has done a wonderful job with the Lancashire battlers, but he will be hampered by some notable absentees this weekend.
Belgian midfielder Steven Defour missed the last fixture with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out of commission for at least another week yet.
Another key man in the middle, Jeff Hendrick, is suspended after earning a straight red card for nasty challenge early in the defeat to Watford.
Chelsea are sweating on the availability of one of their own stars.
Eden Hazard came out of the win over Arsenal with a leg injury, although he is rated a decent chance to pull up in time for the trip north.
Otherwise, there is nothing much to say about the Blues.
They have a nine-point lead in the title race and nobody else is stringing enough wins together to challenge them.
These two teams have met five times in Premier League football, with Chelsea winning four and drawing the other.
Swansea City vs. Leicester City
4pm local time – Sunday, February 12, 2017 – Liberty Stadium
- Swansea 2-1 correct score – +800
- Gylfi Sigurdsson first goalscorer – +650
Although there are nearly three months of the 2016-17 EPL season left to play, this match could have a huge impact on where either side finishes.
Swansea have improved a ton under Paul Clement, yet last week’s narrow defeat to Man City leaves them only a point above the drop.
The new manager has made it clear that he will not risk playing youngsters if he doesn’t have to.
Jefferson Montero is the only doubt for Leicester’s visit, so expect the starting XI to feature a lot of familiar faces.
Even if they weren’t in reasonable touch, the Swans would have to fancy themselves against the free-falling Foxes.
Leicester have now lost four in a row and are spiralling wildly towards relegation.
Without N’Golo Kante bossing the midfield, Claudio Ranieri and his charges look utterly clueless whenever their opponents break forward.
Their away form is an absolute disgrace – no wins from 12 road trips – so it will take a remarkable turnaround for the reigning champions to get anything from their journey to Wales.
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