A quick glance at the Premier League table shows that Chelsea are top of the tree, having failed to win just once so far this season. Tottenham currently lie in fifth place, having dropped crucial points against poorer sides like WBA and Norwich. So how come the bookmakers have Tottenham as favourites for Saturday’s clash, and are they right to do so?
This Saturday sees Tottenham play host to cross-city rivals Chelsea, in what promises to be a mouth-watering Premier League encounter. Both sides are in good form, with Spurs having won four on the spin, including a 3-2 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, while Chelsea have only failed to win once this term, a 0-0 draw away at QPR.
Chelsea have the tightest defence in the Premier League at the moment having conceded just four times in their seven league matches, and this has undoubtedly played a major role in their early ascent to the top of the league. Tottenham made a slow start to the 2012/13 campaign, losing to Newcastle before being held at home by weaker sides Norwich and West Bromwich Albion, but now appear to be back on track. However, they remain adrift of the big boys for now, finding themselves even behind Everton in fifth place.
But looking at the bookmakers odds on Saturday’s match, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the league placings were the other way around. The biggest price available on Spurs at the time of writing is 2.60 (Paddy Power and William Hill) while some bookmakers are as short as 2.44. Chelsea are currently a best price of 2.92 with Pinnacle and are no shorter than 2.62. But why is that?
One trend that has emerged from this fixture in recent seasons is that Chelsea have a poor record when travelling to White Hart Lane. The Blues have failed to collect three points on all of their last six Premier League visits to Tottenham and you have to go back to August 2005 to spot a league victory for Chelsea at White Hart Lane.
If you look at historical odds for the Tottenham vs Chelsea fixture at White Hart Lane, there is a clear trend of growing respect for Spurs from the layers. Three encounters back, Tottenham saw off their rivals 2-1 despite having been around the 4.33 mark pre-match. Chelsea were as short as 1.80 to win that game. The following two encounters both ended 1-1, with Spurs having a pre-match price of around 3.20 and then 2.74 to win, while Chelsea were around 2.20 and a relatively huge 2.60, respectively.
That trend is continuing with this Saturday’s fixture, too. When Bet365 were betting on this match ten days ago, they were priced at 2.80 about a Spurs victory, but the savvy punters have clearly gobbled all of that up as at the time of writing, they are as short as 2.50 about Tottenham. Similarly, BetVictor had also been as big as 2.80 about Spurs but are currently offering 2.60, and when they opened the betting on this fixture, Chelsea were installed as favourites at 2.45, but The Blues are now as big as 2.88 to win.
Granted, these are hardly massive market moves, but they are significant enough to turn Tottenham from underdogs into favourites. It’s also worth considering that the majority of the money traded on this Saturday’s match is still to be done in the coming days, so the price could fall further still.
But is Tottenham’s contraction in price really justified? After all, each of the last six matches between the two sides at White Hart Lane has been played out under totally different circumstances – different players, managers, levels of form, tactics and weather conditions will all have played their part. Surely none of this history matters and whatever happened before can’t possibly have a bearing on the outcome of Saturday’s Premier League encounter?
There may be in something in that suggestion. After all, the average football fan and punter is quite happy to buy into theories about ‘bogey sides’ and many will be happy to back Tottenham regardless of evidence to the contrary, simply based on their recent record at home to Chelsea. That should distort the prices enough to make backing Chelsea a value play.
If you look at the game in isolation and forget about seasons past, surely Chelsea have to be favourites? Spurs have only kept one clean sheet this season (last time out against a pretty poor Aston Villa side) while Chelsea have only failed to score once. In their last match against Norwich, Chelsea scored four times, with four different scorers. They are clearly playing well, full of confidence and have goals all over the pitch. The Manchester United game apart (and who wouldn’t raise their game for a trip to Old Trafford?) Spurs have been scraping by against the poorer sides in the division.
I won’t be at all surprised if it’s Spurs singing the blues come twenty to three on Saturday.
Tottenham vs Chelsea
12:45, White Hart Lane
Odds courtesy of Pinnacle (prices may change):