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Rupert Wyman 29th Sep 2009 - 15:42

Efficient Chelsea to Nic it in Cyprus

Chelsea travel to Cyprus to face APOEL Nicosia without some stars and question marks hanging over them following their shock 3-1 loss at Wigan on Saturday, which was the first of Carlo Ancelotti's reign.

There is no doubt that Chelsea are a far superior side to APOEL Nicosia but can they justify odds of 1/4 to come away from Cyprus with the points?

Of greatest concern for the Blues will be the absence of star striker Didier Drogba as he continues to serve his suspension from the Champions League following his antics after Barcelona knocked his side out of the competition last season.

The Ivorian has already notched six goals in the Premier League this season and with Ancelotti preferring to play 4-4-2 his unavailability will be a massive loss.

The burden will therefore rest upon Nicolas Anelka's shoulders. The Frenchman was the Premier League's golden boot winner last season and he has three goals in all competitions this term including scoring the winner in the 1-0 success on match day one against Porto at Stamford Bridge.

Anelka is priced at 11/4 to open the scoring at the GSP Stadium and this looks like the one to be on rather than the 8/13 about him scoring at anytime.

Anelka's likely strike partner, in the absence of Drogba, will be Drogba's compatriot Salomon Kalou who is priced at 5/1 to score first, 5/4 at any point during the match. But for me Kalou never overly convinces and I would not be comfortable backing him at such a short price.

The match promises to be a tight affair particularly with no Drogba as Chelsea could struggle to be at their flowing best without the strength of the hitman up front. Much like against Porto I expect an efficient performance from Ancelotti's team rather than a spectacular one.

Therefore a low scoring game looks on the cards. In the total goals market under 2 goals is 11/4 which looks a tad big, especially as Chelsea's last three matches in the Champions League have produced just three goals, plus in last year's group stage the Blues scored just two goals away from home.

In the correct score betting the most likely outcomes appear to be a 1-0 or 2-0 win to Chelsea which are available at 6/1 and 9/2 respectively. I also would not rule out the draw though at an industry top price of 9/2 meaning 0-0 and 1-1 at 10/1 and 8/1 respectively would look good bets.

I would be greatly surprised if all the points stayed in Cyprus therefore I would not be tempted about the 11/1 for a home win although the Cypriots cannot be underestimated as they came away from Atletico Madrid with a creditable draw on match day one, albeit against a current very out-of-form Atletico side.

In last season's competition Chelsea failed to win a single away match in the group stage, indeed they have only won one of their last nine away matches in Europe.

The Blues under the experienced Ancelotti will be expecting a reaction following the weekend loss at Wigan and they should have enough to win this as the gulf in class in reality is huge. However, it looks set to be tight and I wouldn't have thought this match would be one for a neutral seeking an entertaining encounter.



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