Chelsea’s Title Chase (and Where to Eat in London) with Graeme Le Saux

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He’s one of Jersey’s favorite sons. Not that Jersey. This one. Graeme Le Saux knows a little something about English football, making 327 Premier League appearances for Southampton, Chelsea and Blackburn, helping bring the latter a title in ‘94 – ’95. These days Graeme plays the Goose to Arlo White’s Maverick on NBC’s Premier League coverage (Sorry, Lee Dixon, you’re Merlin). We caught up with Graeme via phone this week to talk about Chelsea’s title chase, his favorite gantry in the Premier League, and his (very) short stint working in the kitchen of a high-end London eatery.

MiB: You’ve spoken with Antonio Conte since he took the Chelsea job, and have gotten a sense of the kind of person he is. How has he been able to adapt to the Premier League in a way that Pep Guardiola has not?

GLS: Antonio Conte gives me the impression that he’s a very honest, fair manager, who is happy to confront issues head on, confident in his own opinion. He’s very experienced in dealing with big players, and what he’s done brilliantly is treat everybody fairly. As Pep is finding out, you can have the most incredible CV and philosophy on the game, but ultimately you’ve still got to work with a group and be flexible with them, in terms of your own philosophy. That’s where Conte has been ahead of everyone else.

MiB: The Diego Costa situation. He’s injured. He’s had a bust up with Conte. He’s off to China. All these rumors, yet he’s back in the team and scoring on the weekend. How damaging can this be to team chemistry?

GLS: It can be very damaging. It really can. But I think Conte’s leadership has really helped. And Costa must’ve explained himself to the players, or they would have held him accountable for wanting to leave at such an important stage of the season, if it was true. When he scored against Hull, the whole team went over and celebrated with him. For me, that suggests they’ve accepted whatever he’s said behind closed doors.

MiB: If one of these teams in the chasing peloton were to challenge Chelsea, who do you think it could be?

GLS: Tottenham. Their fundamentals are so good and they came so close last year. That pain serves as good fuel for this season. When I look at Arsenal, I still think they’re not a team with the resilience to keep plowing through the football calendar and come out with more points than Chelsea. Liverpool gives us a lot of excitement, because they score a lot of goals, but there are defensive liabilities. To lose to Swansea the way they did last weekend, with the game tied at two and all of the momentum, that’s damaging for a title run. Manchester United have found some fantastic form, but they fell so far behind at the start of the season. To make up that deficit would be a miracle.

MiB: Now to the important stuff. What’s the best gantry in the Premier League and why?

GLS: Oh my word. Let’s be honest, it’s not like choosing between a Rolls Royce and a Bentley. They’re all quite rudimentary. I’m thinking, probably which ones are the least cold and best position. I know Spurs are redeveloping their ground, but I like their current gantry because you almost hang over the pitch. Everton’s is fantastic as well because you’re stuck out from the middle tier, so you’re connected to the pitch. Either of those would be my pick.

MiB: Best restaurant near Stamford Bridge. What are we ordering?

GLS: One of my favorite restaurants in London is The River Cafe. It’s run by a fantastic chef Ruthie Rodgers. It’s about 10 minutes by car from Stamford Bridge on the River Thames. I’ve actually done a shift in their kitchen when I was a player at Chelsea. I told them I was tired after a game and they said, “You don’t know what tired is. Come do a double-shift in the restaurant.” I took them up on it and worked in the restaurant one day. They had me doing all the dirty jobs. By the end I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get my boots back on. For a dish, they do the most amazing beef with split olives and ragù lentil. It’s phenomenal.

Manchester City Tops EPL Futures, But Manchester United Has Chance to Move

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While Manchester City is moving deeper into minus-money range, Manchester United can show it’s a challenger by winning a rivalry match this weekend.

Riding a five-win streak in the league, Manchester City is the -150 favorite on the odds to win the EPL championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Manchester United (+275) has had the benefit of a soft schedule so far, but manager Jose Mourinho’s men can make a statement during matchweek 8 by winning on the road against rival Liverpool.

Chelsea (+800) and Tottenham Hotspur (+1400) remain the darkhorses.

Although Liverpool (+175) is at home for the aforementioned feature match against Manchester United (+155, draw +235), not having speedster Sadio Mane at winger will limit the Reds’ ability to counter-attack. There is a chance of Manchester United playing shutdown soccer and counting on the likes of Romelu Lukaku to poke in a decisive goal. Knowing the stakes, the under on the 2.5 total is inviting.

There is an even tighter three-way moneyline involving host Burnley (+165) against West Ham United (+175, draw +210). West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is getting close to having his first-choice lineup, but Burnley has been the most cohesive squad and is at home, where it’s been tough since the start of last season.

Swansea City (+110) takes a winless home record into action against sagging Huddersfield Town (+275, draw +210). With both teams scuffling offensively and Swansea F Wilfried Bony (hamstring) being uncertain to play, this smacks of a potential 1-0 game. The total is 2.0.

Manchester City (-650) is home to Stoke City (+1800, draw +750). City has scored four goals in three of their last five matches against Stoke, which means both the over on the 3.5 total and the even-money payout on City covering the minus-2.5 goal-line both look reachable.

Neither Brighton & Hove Albion (+220) nor Everton (+135, draw +205) is inspiring great confidence. Brighton is missing three first-choice players, while Everton has had only two men, Oumar Niasse and Wayne Rooney, score a goal this season. The draw offers almost as much value as a Brighton victory.

And Leicester City (EVEN) hosts West Bromwich Albion (+300, draw +225) in the Monday betting matchup. The Foxes need the three points to get out of the relegation zone, and should be able to set up a fresh-legged Jamie Vardy for a goal.

 

Manchester City remain minus money on EPL futures ahead of visit to Chelsea

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The price on Manchester City in English Premier League outright champion betting remains steady, but doesn’t reflect their latest injury woes. Manchester City are the -110 favourites on the EPL champion futures board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with rival Manchester United coming down to +250.

Chelsea (+500), which coincidentally host Manchester City in the feature game of matchweek 7, have also come down slightly. Tottenham Hotspur (+1400) also pose good value as they continue to get comfortable playing out of Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City have another long-term absence on the back line, as left-back Benjamin Mendy (knee) is out for two months at least. Center-back Vincent Kompany has also been AWOL this season due to injury. Any stumble could cause City’s price to rise.

Chelsea (+175) are the slight moneyline underdogs at home to Manchester City (+150, +245 draw) on Saturday. With Alvaro Morata in peak form and Eden Hazard showing he can run for a full 90 minutes, Chelsea should be good to at least break City’s shutout streak.

With this being the quintessential six-pointer between top-of-the-table teams, a draw might be a zero-sum outcome.

Huddersfield Town (+750) might get exposed by Tottenham Hotspur (-280, +360 draw). The Spurs pulled Harry Kane early in their Champions League match to preserve him for Saturday, and they are even money on the minus-1.5 goal-line. Now that teams have more intel on Huddersfield, they might be easier to break down their resilient defence.

Stoke City (+190) might be a shaky moneyline play at home against Southampton (+150, +220 draw), since seven first-choice players, including four defenders, are banged-up. Southampton, with F Manolo Gabbiadini returning up front, might be good for at least a draw. The goal line is also a pick’em.

West Bromwich Albion (+125), which are on a five-match winless streak in all competitions, host Watford (+255, +205 draw), who are on a three-game road win streak. The under on the 2.0 total is at even-money, indicating belief this might be a 1-0 game either way. Watford will be in their first outing since MF Nathaniel Chalobah (broken kneecap) went down, so it’s hard to predict how they’ll manage without him.

Newcastle United (+390) welcome Liverpool (-150, +295 draw) on Sunday. Their last six matches on Newcastle’s home pitch have had 19 total goals, but the over on the 3.0 total is still even money. Liverpool will push the envelope on the attack with Sadio Mané back from a three-match ban, and they do not defend tremendously well on the road.

Manchester United (-600) face yet-to-score-this-season Crystal Palace (+1800, +600 draw).  Romelu Lokaku is going off at +210 to be the first goal scorer, and there’s a prop that pays +155 if each team scores a goal. Palace have to slot one home eventually, and Man United won’t have their most formidable lineup after playing a Champions League fixture in Russia on Tuesday.