Second only to Manchester United in terms of Premier League titles won this century, Chelsea have managed to sustain their success despite a regular turnover of managers. As they head into the new season as reigning Premier League champions, Antonio Conte must overcome a renewed challenge from his rivals, as well as the pressure to continue to deliver trophies for his restless chairman Roman Abramovic.
While Conte was highly regarded and many pundits predicted that Chelsea would finish in the top four last season, few had them marked down as Premier League champions. A few disappointing results in the autumn appeared to suggest that 2016-17 would be a rebuilding season. But then Conte reverted to what he knew best, introducing the three-man central defence and from then on, Chelsea were unstoppable, winning the Premier League by a clear seven points.
According to the bookmakers, Chelsea are set to struggle in their title defence. In fact they have been slipping down the betting in the Premier League winners market all summer. They were generally second favourites back in June, but are now priced at the 7/2 mark, behind both Manchester City and Manchester United.
Bookmakers are more optimistic about their chances of finishing in the top four next season. They can be backed at 4/11 with SkyBet and Betfred to qualify for the Champions League by making the top four, and are 4/1 with Boylesports to repeat their feat of last season and top the Premier League table at Christmas.
When it comes to European competition, bookmakers still have Chelsea as the second likeliest of the English clubs to lift the Champions League, rating them generally as a 14/1 shot, ahead of Manchester United, but behind Manchester City.
What do the punters think?
The lack of big name signings, combined with the ongoing Diego Costa speculation has meant that punters have stayed away from Chelsea this summer. In fact, according to a leading odds comparison site, in terms of betting action, the Blues have been the fifth favourite side in the Premier League winners market and the fourth favourite of the five English sides in the Champions League winners market, behind both the Manchester clubs and Liverpool, though ahead of Tottenham.
That may change, however, as the season approaches, particularly when the club begins to add significant reinforcements to the squad and punters may side with the London giants as the big Premier League kick off approaches.
Chelsea’s Premier League dominance was built on a strong defensive and midfield foundation, and a key factor was N’Golo Kante, their tireless midfielder who picked up both the PFA and Football Writers’ player of the year award last season.
Yet this time round, Chelsea players have been largely overlooked in that market. Kante is once again their leading contender, and is available at 33/1 with William Hill. Cesc Fabregas is widely available at 40/1 while you can get 50/1 from SkyBet for Diego Costa to finish as the Player of the Year.
In the Young Player of the Year market, Michy Batshuayi is Chelsea’s most prominent contender, available at 20/1 with PaddyPower, Ruben Loftus-Cheek at 50/1 and Nathaniel Chalobah 66/1 are their other main entrants in the market. It is worth noting, however, that all three have been linked with transfers away from Stamford Bridge this summer.
Missing out on Romelu Lukaku was a blow for Chelsea, particularly as Diego Costa appears to be on his way out and is a 3/10 chance with Paddy Power to join Atletico Madrid. The Blues have been linked with a number of players including James Rodriguez, Robert Lewandowski and Alvaro Morato who is a 1/2 shot with BetVictor to switch to Stamford Bridge, and will be keen to hang onto their Belgian star, Eden Hazard, who according to SkyBet, is an 11/2 shot to move to Real Madrid.