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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 November, 2009, 12:00am

Chelsea versus Manchester United is the fourth showdown of the season between the big-four teams in the English Premier League and the latest clash could follow the trend of previous encounters by producing another home win.

Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-0 at home, while United have already had two big-four clashes - winning 2-1 at home against Arsenal but losing 2-0 when they travelled away to Liverpool. The insipid display at Anfield is a major negative against United for this latest tough away trip, and they will have to improve significantly to stop the Blues.

Under Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea have rediscovered the excellent home form that underpinned their title triumphs for Jose Mourinho. Their record at Stamford Bridge in those two title-winning seasons was won 32, drawn six, lost none, and they won five out of six against the other members of the big four.

Chelsea have remained a tough team to beat at Stamford Bridge in the intervening years, but they have not been as strong against the elite teams. Last season's home form was poor by their standards, with only three wins out of nine against the teams who finished in the top half of the table and just one point from their three home games against big-four sides.

Ancelotti has engineered a return to Chelsea's form of the Jose Mourinho days, with five wins out of five in the Premier League as well as a 100 per cent record in their two Champions League home games. Six of those seven home wins have been to nil, which shows the enduring quality of their defence, but the transformation has been in their goal-scoring capacity.

They are averaging close to three goals per game at home, having scored two or more in six out of seven games, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Ancelotti's much-discussed diamond formation has been the key to their success.

Last season they averaged under two goals per game at Stamford Bridge, which was the principal reason behind the decline in their home-win rate. This season Chelsea's goal difference is already eight ahead of United's, and it is clear that Chelsea are operating better at both ends of the pitch than the defending champions.

One notable weakness in United's record this season is that they have conceded nine goals in six matches against top-half opponents - whereas Chelsea have conceded only three while scoring 13, the same as United. The champions have kept only one clean sheet against a top-half team, and the likelihood of United conceding tips the balance significantly in favour of Chelsea.

Since Roman Abramovich put his wealth behind Chelsea, the Blues are unbeaten in six league home games against United (four wins, two draws) and at the available odds they rate a good bet to add another win to that excellent record.

Aston Villa, one of the two teams to beat Chelsea this season, are another side who have improved their home form this season and they can continue their upward curve with victory over Bolton.

Since their shock defeat by Wigan on the opening day, Villa have won five out of six at home, with their only failure being a 1-1 against Manchester City. On form they are several notches above Bolton, who finished 21 points behind Villa last season and already trail by seven this season.

The third attractive home bet in the Premier League is Blackburn, who rate a good chance to halt Portsmouth's mini-revival. Blackburn have lost only two home league games out of 16 since Sam Allardyce took charge - those defeats were against high-flyers Manchester City and Aston Villa - and their win rate is good enough to make them overpriced against Portsmouth.

Against teams who finished in the bottom half of the table last season, or are in that category this season, Blackburn have won six out of nine at home under Allardyce.

Among the best away chances, Arsenal are an obvious banker at Wolves, though Arsene Wenger's team must guard against the weakness that saw them throw away a two-goal lead at West Ham in their last away game.

That left Arsenal with just two wins from their opening five away games - a statistic that would have seemed barely credible following their opening-day 6-1 demolition of Everton at Goodison Park. Their only away league win since then was 1-0 at Fulham, when most observers considered them somewhat fortunate to escape the kind of setback that befell Liverpool at Craven Cottage last weekend.

Arsenal's two defeats on the road this season have been against the Manchester clubs, which is no real disgrace, and the likelihood is that the Gunners' away figures understate their true form. They have scored in every away game and should have no trouble outscoring Wolves, who are averaging just one goal per game overall and are the joint-lowest scorers at home, with four goals in five games.

On the figures, Sunderland and Fulham rate the best long-odds chances in the Premier League, though there are negative factors in both cases. Sunderland are much improved and, having drawn at Manchester United and beaten Liverpool at home, they are capable of causing problems on their visit to Tottenham. But confidence is reduced by the return of Jermain Defoe to the hosts' attack.

Fulham are closely matched with Wigan, but the negative is that they are coming off a tough trip to Roma in the Europa League.

Dismal decades

Years since Arsenal lost against Wolves in any competition: 30

First cut is deepest

Games in which Portsmouth have conceded first, losing them all: 8

Reebok freebies

Bolton are the only Premier League team without a single clean sheet: 0

Shortlist: Cardiff, Schalke, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, QPR, Preston, Juventus, Palermo, Genoa, Parma, Chelsea, Dortmund, Lyon

Top 5 tips

1 Cardiff on handicap

Excellent win-rate when scoring, with eight victories out of 12

2 Middlesbrough on handicap

Top scorers on the road and can win for Gordon Strachan

3 QPR away win

Hosts Sheffield Wednesday have faded to two wins in 10

4 Preston on handicap

Defeated only twice in 10 matches against teams below them

5 Palermo on handicap

Unbeaten against teams below the top eight in Serie A