A stuttering Southampton side face a daunting trip to West London on Saturday afternoon, as they take on a Chelsea team who have won three of their last four Premier League games. The Blues won comfortably on Tuesday, 3-1 away at Huddersfield, whilst the Saints were atrocious a day later, crashing to a 4-1 home defeat against a resurgent Leicester City side.
Chelsea currently sit third in the table, only three points behind fierce rivals Manchester United. Their display in midweek was particularly notable for the excellent performances of squad players such as Willian and Pedro. It will be interesting to see if those two earn a place in Antonio Conte’s starting eleven on Saturday.
Southampton had picked up some decent results in recent weeks, mainly thanks to Charlie Austin’s scoring spree of four goals in four games. However, defeat to Leicester at the hands of former boss Claude Puel was met with fierce criticism, with many fans feeling that the club have regressed this season under new manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
Marcos Alonso had a brilliant first year at Chelsea, but he hasn’t quite hit those heights so far this season. However, he played well against Huddersfield, and assisted Willian’s goal just before half-time. His pace and crossing could cause problems for Southampton’s right-back Cedric Soares, who is only just returning to full fitness after a hamstring injury.
Ryan Bertrand famously made his Champions League debut for Chelsea in the 2012 final. However, he is now on the opposing side and continues to stand out as one of Southampton’s best players. As well as being a solid defender, he is a threat going forward. He assisted Maya Yoshida’s goal in midweek, and was a constant menace to the defences of Bournemouth and Arsenal earlier this month.
In terms of team news, David Luiz will still be absent for Chelsea with his long-term knee injury. Antonio Conte left star striker Alvaro Morata out in midweek due to the Spaniard’s back problem, but he is expected to return on Saturday. Morata, Alonso and Antonio Rudiger are all one yellow card away from suspension, and Conte will be hoping to avoid that selection headache over Christmas.
At a time of year when squad selection and rotation can be crucial, Pellegrino will be delighted to have a fully fit set of players to choose from. The only doubt for Southampton might have been Cedric, but he came through the full 90 minutes against Leicester unscathed, and he should make the starting line-up against Chelsea too.
Although their 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge two years ago assisted in Jose Mourinho’s demise as Chelsea manager, that was Southampton’s only win there in their last eight attempts. Chelsea haven’t looked as impressive as last season, but they should still have too much for an inconsistent Southampton side. A comfortable home win looks to be the most likely outcome on Saturday.
Kick Off: Saturday @ 3pm