Chelsea’s season sits at a crossroads ahead of this weekend’s Premier League clash with Watford, as the English champions need to start to show the menacing form of last term or risk being left behind in the race for silverware.
The Stamford Bridge outfit were unplayable at times in 2016-17 and worthy winners of the title, but the start of this campaign has sparked questions over whether Antonio Conte’s men have the required quality to retain their crown.
Both of the Manchester clubs have clearly strengthened over the summer while Chelsea have been in the football news for all the wrong reasons (Costa). A nine-point gap between fifth-placed Chelsea and division leaders City after just eight games should be a source of concern in West London.
With the Blues to contest the early kick-off on Saturday against London rivals Watford, anything the than three points at Stamford Bridge will be deemed as a major blow for Conte’s charges.
Chelsea have lost both of their last two Premier League games, being beaten 1-0 at home to City before being turned over by Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park last weekend in a shock result.
With the London club also relinquishing a two-lead against Roma in midweek and eventually fortunate to salvage a point in a 3-3 draw, now is the time for a statement.
Watford do not represent a straight-forward proposition however, with the Hornets sitting in fourth place currently after a strong start to the campaign.
Marco Silva has galvanised the Vicarage Road outfit, who go into the game with Chelsea full of confidence having beaten Arsenal 2-1 last time out.
Chelsea on paper should have too much quality for the visitors, but injuries have robbed the hosts of a number of players.
That said, odds of 9/1 for a Watford victory show that the bookmakers are backing the Blues to get back on track on Saturday.
The Watford match-winner against Arsenal was Tom Cleverley, who slotted home the all-important late goal to give the Hornets all three points at Vicarage Road.
The England international was being touted as the next Paul Scholes in some corners, but his career has stagnated since leaving Manchester United.
Despite this, odds of 23/1 for Cleverley to score against Chelsea could be appealing for punters, with the midfielder having a point to prove.
Chelsea fans will be desperate for a positive result, with the Manchester club expected to win their fixtures and a gap forming at the top of the table.