Chelsea appeal in battle of top two

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2005, 12:00am

The Blues have an outstanding record against Spurs

Chelsea ended one London hoodoo with victory over Arsenal last weekend, but they should continue their own stranglehold over Tottenham Hotspur in tonight's big televised clash.

Chelsea are top of the table already, with Spurs in second place, but the gap between them hardly seems to be narrowing. The Blues have an outstanding record against Spurs - they are unbeaten in 26 Premiership clashes, with 16 wins and 10 draws, evenly split between home and away.

Spurs managed a 0-0 at Stamford Bridge last season but only because, as Jose Mourinho put it, they 'parked the bus in front of the goal'. Martin Jol's team were negative at Blackburn in midweek, too, but they will have to come out at home and that will play into Chelsea's hands.

Chelsea rate as a 1.83 chance, so for once punters can get the true odds about the champions, even though, as usual, the Jockey Club compilers have trimmed them as short as possible. Chelsea continue to do the business, even when not on top form, and the odds are worth taking.

Manchester United rate as the next best away chance in the Premiership for their visit to Newcastle tomorrow night. This is another fixture with a one-sided history - 13 wins overall for Manchester United, with eight draws and just three victories for Newcastle. The last Newcastle win came almost four years ago, when they were genuine title contenders. Since then, they have lost seven out of eight against Sir Alex Ferguson's team, including a 4-1 annihilation in last season's FA Cup semi-final.

Everything stacks up against Newcastle. They have scored only two goals at home since March, they are goalless in three Premiership outings this season, and their defence doesn't look good enough to hold Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, who all have great goalscoring records against Newcastle.

The blue half of Manchester has plenty to cheer this season so far, with City enjoying their best run in the top flight since 1977. They are unbeaten in 11 games since Stuart Pearce lost at Spurs in his first game in charge and they rate as the best home chance against Portsmouth.

City let down backers at similar odds on the opening day with a home 0-0 against West Brom, but they should make no mistake this time. Whereas West Brom were on an upward curve in the second half of last season, Portsmouth were going the other way and have continued their slide this season.

Portsmouth have lost 12 out of 19 away games in both of their Premiership seasons, and there is no sign that they will be any better this season. As well as the top-of-the-table clash at White Hart Lane, the bottom two also go head to head this weekend when Wigan host Sunderland (HKJC match no. SAT 22). It is too early to be talking about a relegation 'six-pointer', but both sides will be desperate for a win to kick-start their season.

Sunderland certainly held the upper hand last season, when they took the Championship title by seven points and won 1-0 at Wigan in April, after the reverse fixture had finished 1-1. However, it is usually a wise policy to oppose the promoted teams on the road, at least early in the season, and Wigan look the safest option tonight.

Best homes: Aston Villa, Manchester City, WBA, Middlesbrough.

Best aways: Chelsea, Manchester United.

High goals: Newcastle v Manchester United.

Low goals: Spurs v Chelsea.

thousand-dollar wager - $200 win: Man City, Espanyol, Schalke, Atletico Madrid. $200 handicap: Sampdoria