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Nic Ladds 24th Dec 2009 - 10:20

Chelsea can deliver knock-out blow on Boxing Day

Chelsea arrive at one of the most in form teams in the Premier League in the middle of a serious wobble but Boxing Day is one of their favourite days of the year as they are unbeaten in five years and are 4/9 to win again in Birmingham.

Alex McLeish's managerial stock will be shooting through the roof at the moment as he has his City side who were one of the favourites for relegation on a seven game unbeaten run and pushing for a European place and they will have their backers at 11/2 to be the next team to trouble Chelsea.

Carlo Ancelotti watched his side scrape a draw last week at struggling West Ham by means of a penalty that shouldn't have been to see them fail to win their third Premier League game in four and drawing seems to be becoming a habit - a result that can be backed at 13/5 to happen again.

History is also on the Blues' side as Birmingham have never beaten them in the Premier League in 10 meetings and it is 15 matches altogether since they secured a victory against Ancelotti's side but nevertheless it will take a brave man to take short odds about the out of sorts league leaders.

Both these sides drew 1-1 last week, a result which is 11/2 to happen again and those expecting a Chelsea backlash may not get it as Birmingham have turned St Andrews in to a fortress, conceding just five goals at home, the joint least in the Premier League along with Chelsea.

As we saw against West Ham, the longer the away side go without a goal, the more frustrated they will get and mistakes will start creeping in to their game with particular vulnerability from set-pieces, a fact that Christian Benitez (8/1 for first goal) and Cameron Jerome (9/1) will hope to take advantage of in the box, while Sebastian Larsson (16/1) has proved himself lethal from free kicks.

This is the last game that Chelsea will have the services of Didier Drogba to call on before he (along with Kalou, Essien and Mikel) head off to the African Cup of Nations and he is 3/1 to leave his team with the present of a first goal while Nicolas Anelka is 9/2 and Frank Lampard 5/1 and look out for Daniel Sturridge at 6/1 for last goal who may get his chance as it looks as though he will be starting in the coming weeks so Ancelotti may want to give him some much-needed experience.

If Birmingham are to continue their amazing run it will be by the odd goal as all their victories have been and 1-0 at 11/1 and 2-1 at 16/1 may be too big to ignore for some, while a more expected Chelsea victory of 1-0 is 4/1, 2-0 9/2 and 2-1 13/2 and it would seem unnecessary to look at a cricket score given Birmingham's defensive record.

Those who fancy a bigger priced punt, Chelsea have recouped more points from losing positions than any other side this season and they can be backed at 7/1 to come from behind and win or 19/2 to come from behind and draw with the latter preferred as if Birmingham can take the lead it could take Chelsea a while to come back in to the game.

This game carries a lot more significance for Chelsea than it may first appear as they are about to lose four players, two of which (Essien and Drogba) are crucial members of the side, so anything less than a win will be seen as huge disappointment despite Birmingham's resilience.

A narrow victory to the Pensioners looks the call but it will be hard fought and given the narrow looking score line at a good looking price a handicap tie with Birmingham receiving a goal head start and Chelsea giving up a goal at 13/2 looks the way to go as this accounts for any one goal victory go the away side.


Handicap tie (Birmingham +1 goal, Chelsea -1 goal) - 13/2


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