The football betting calendar has a funny way of creating a fixture pile-up in which two sides clash twice in a short period of time – not least Chelsea and Arsenal, who meet again in the first leg of the Carabao Cup at Stamford Bridge on 10 January, having only just contested a dramatic 2-2 game at the Emirates Stadium last Wednesday.
While the Carabao Cup has received some criticism for sides fielding fringe players, the fact that Manchester City, high-flying Championship side Bristol City and two London giants remain in the competition pours scorn on it not being taken seriously.
Indeed, with the EPL and Champions League qualification looking dubious for Arsene Wenger's side, and Antonio Conte under relentless pressure for success, this is a game that has punting intrigue written all over it. Remember, these sides know each other all too well, meaning tactics could play a decisive role in striking the right bets!
In the four competitive matches between these sides this season, the earliest goal was a 46th minute injury time strike by Victor Moses in the Community Shield. The cagey nature of the first leg isn't likely to see any gung-ho tactics, so betting against early goals looks an interesting angle. Indeed, you can take odds of 10/11 at William Hill for the second half being the highest scoring, while the firm go 10-1 about the first goal being scored between minutes 61 and 75.
Arsenal and Chelsea are enjoying something of a private dogfight this season, with their forthcoming first leg Carabao Cup semi-final being the fourth time the sides have clashed competitively. Ignoring a meaningless 3-0 drubbing inflicted by Chelsea in Beijing during pre-season, the sides have since drawn 1-1 in the Charity Shield, 0-0 at Stamford Bridge and 2-2 last Wednesday at the Emirates.
On the face of it, the stats don't lie: three stalemates make the draw look an initially appealing football bet at 11/4 with William Hill. However, neither side has drawn a game in the competition up to this stage, with Chelsea recording a 5-1 drubbing against Nottingham Forest, followed by two 2-1 victories.
Arsenal have won by the odd goal in all their games (1-0, 2-1 and 1-0). That said, the dynamics of the semi-final does create a potentially much more tactical affair, whereby both sides know they've got the second leg to come, with no way to ease fixture congestion by strongly pressing for a win at the first attempt.
Neither side has been easy to beat in recent weeks either – Chelsea are unbeaten in six league games, Arsenal seven. Nevertheless, while Chelsea won't want to concede an away goal, they'll be keen to take a lead to Arsenal, given the fact that the Gunners have the Premiership's joint second best (with Manchester United) home record.
Arsenal have also displayed some fragility on the road, languishing in ninth place in the away form league table, while Chelsea sit only second behind the virtually immaculate Manchester City. This makes Chelsea's average odds of 4/5 for the win the bet to strike with top online bookmaking sites.
Indeed, following the drama of the recent 2-2 draw, you get the impression that something's got to give between the sides. And given the host of chances Chelsea made at the Emirates last Wednesday, backing the Blues to take a lead into the second leg looks the most likely outcome.
Granted, the Gunners had chances too at the Emirates and the game was finely balanced in the eyes of most analysts, but Chelsea's home edge looks key against Arsenal's away form this season. And when home form of a dominate team like Chelsea is on the rise, opponents and bettors should certainly take notice.
Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was the target for press and social media criticism after missing a hatful of chances against Arsenal in Chelsea's recent 2-2 draw. To many pundits, the Spaniard could have legitimately scored at least three times with more clinical finishing and a little more patience/control.
While the social media hounds may be questioning his ability, he's already scored 12 goals in 26 games for budding squad from Chelsea, inclusive of ten in 17 in the Premier League. Even comparing that to Diego Costa's excellent 26 in 20 games in 2014/2015 for the Blues, it's not a bad return by any standards at all.
Morata's simply too good to not get back in the goals, and if he gets as many clear-cut changes this time, his odds of 3/1 with William Hill to score first look worth a bet. The two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final games between Arsenal and Chelsea could be one of the clashes of the season, with the outright winner being hard to predict.
However, Chelsea's home form is strong, while Arsenal's away form remains questionable statistically this season. That makes Chelsea the bet to place with William Hill before the second leg drama unfolds on 24 January 2018. Be sure to check out William Hill for the latest odds from Chelsea and Arsenal's Carabao Cup semi-final!