Chelsea v Qarabag Predictions, Betting Tips and Previews
September 11, 2017
Stamford Bridge - Champions League
Defending Premier League champions Chelsea host Azerbaijan side Qarabag in their opening Champions League game, with Antonio Conte's side hopeful of a win.
Chelsea have never faced Qarabag in competitive European competition before, and they will present a unique threat to Conte's charges on Tuesday night.
Qarabag have faced British opposition in Europe before, losing 1-0 on aggregate in the Champions League qualifying stages to Celtic back in 2015 and they were also twice beaten by Tottenham during the Europa League group stages in 2015.
Conte's hand is strengthened by having a fully fit squad to pick from, following the return to action of a number of first team stars during their weekend win over Leicester City.
Midfielder Eden Hazard has now returned to first team action after missing much of pre season with a broken ankle, Gary Cahill is also back from a domestic suspension, although Diego Costa is out having been omitted from the club's Champions League squad.
Summer signings Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko have both settled quickly and should start, while deadline day signing Davide Zappacosta made his debut against the Foxes, while fellow late transfer Danny Drinkwater did not play against his former club, but he could make his debut on Tuesday.
Qarabag will be relying on key duo Michel Madera and Mahir Medetov to give Chelsea something to think about going forward on Tuesday night. Madera, who enjoyed a brief spell at Birmingham City in his early career, has been vital for Qarabag in midfield, creating play and providing a goal scoring threat. Medetov will line up in attack, and with two goals in the Champions League qualifying rounds, Chelsea will have to ensure that they keep an eye on him.
Chelsea v Qarabag Preview and Predictions
Chelsea are the overwhelming favourites for this game, and with good reason following their excellent start to the season, despite defeat on the opening day of the Premier League season.
Conte's side shook off that surprise defeat to Burnley, to collect convincing wins against Tottenham, Everton and Leicester City in the run up to the start of their European campaign.
Even without the absent Costa, Chelsea still have a huge amount of fire power in Hazard, Morata, Pedro and Willian, and this will be of real concern to the unfancied Azerbaijan champions, who travel to London with the likely aim of just making life difficult for their hosts.
A home win looks to be a given in this one, particularly with Chelsea's recent form and the level of opposition posed by Qarabag, and three simple points for Chelsea is priced at 1/9.
With such a tight group in store for Chelsea this season, Conte will be keen to ensure that there are no slip ups against the weakest side in the group, and also that goal difference could be a definitive factor as the group wears on - so an over 2.5 goals bet looks to be a very good option, priced at 4/9.
Alvaro Morata to score first at 3/1
Spanish international Morata has really hit the ground running following his summer move from Real Madrid, scoring three goals in four Premier League games so far. His predator instinct, aerial ability and willingness to make runs in behind defences have meant that Chelsea have not missed Costa nearly as much as their fans initially feared at the start of the season.
Chelsea to win 3-0 at 9/2
The Blues look to be getting back into the champions groove in recent weeks, dispatching both Everton and Leicester City with relative ease, and they should have little problem in securing a straightforward win here. Given the attacking talents available to Conte, allied to the threat of Michy Batshuayi and Cesc Fabregas from the bench and their defensive solidity Qarabag should be given very little to work with.