Premier League betting: The smart money could be on Chelsea

It hasn’t been an easy start to Frank Lampard’s reign as manager, but there have been enough positive signs to suggest that Chelsea could yet be challengers for the Premier League title this season.

When it comes to football betting, there’s no doubt that Liverpool and Manchester City are still seen as the two stand-out teams in the division – and with good reason.

Chelsea are certainly favourites to win their next game, away at Wolves, but in terms of the title race they are not expected to challenge Liverpool and City. That might be wide of the mark, because there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Blues will improve as the season progresses.

Shoring up the defence

Chelsea have looked vulnerable at the back, with Kurt Zouma turning in a horror show at Manchester United in the opening game and then scoring an own goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United to leave Lampard still waiting for his first home win as boss.

Lampard dropped Andreas Christensen for that game – a sure sign that the manager has been less than impressed with Chelsea’s defending in recent matches.

The inexperienced Fiyako Tomori was brought in and did OK, but the man likely to make a real difference is Antonio Rudiger, who is working his way back to fitness after a knee injury.

Rudiger has made two recent appearances for Chelsea’s Under-23 side as part of his comeback and is expected to return to first-team action after the international break. That will be a welcome boost for Chelsea and add some much-needed experience to the heart of the defence.

There is also likely to be some much-needed dynamism added, with young right-back Reece James on the way back from an ankle injury. Lampard rates James highly and wants to give him a chance – potentially at the expense of the dependable but less exciting Cesar Azpilicueta, whose place looks under real threat.

Midfield options

Chelsea have looked strong in midfield – and that’s even without the great N’Golo Kante, who recovered from a knee problem only to suffer an ankle injury. He too should be back in action after the international break.

Jorginho, much maligned last season, has been excellent, while Mateo Kovacic has also impressed and Ross Barkley continues to show his ability for both club and country.

But of course the real midfield bonus so far this season has been the emergence of Mason Mount, who thrived under Lampard while on loan at Derby County last season and has repaid his manager’s faith in him. Mount, recently called up by England, really does look the part.

So too of course did Ruben Loftus-Cheek before suffering an Achilles tendon injury. With Kante and Loftus-Cheek still to come in, and Mount only likely to get better, Chelsea have an abundance of talent in that midfield area.

Abraham can deliver

After a rocky start to a huge season for Tammy Abraham in his quest to be a Chelsea first-team regular, the young striker has responded with a brace at Norwich and another goal against Sheffield United – those are great signs for the Blues and if he can maintain that kind of form then don’t bet against Chelsea this season.

Their attacking options are not abundant given the summer departure of talisman Eden Hazard, injury to Callum Hudson-Odoi and the transfer ban hanging over the club. Neither Olivier Giroud or Michy Batshuayi have looked convincing, but Abraham looks ready to answer Chelsea’s call. And Hudson-Odoi’s eagerly awaited return will be another major boost.

So don’t write off Chelsea just yet. It could still turn out to be a season to remember if their returning players can hit the ground running.