Southampton host Chelsea at St. Mary’s on the back of a convincing Premier League run, having built their confidence up with a 1-0 win over Sunderland in the EFL Cup on Wednesday. They have worked their way up to eighth in the league, and are unbeaten in five league matches.
Chelsea followed up a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United in the league with an EFL Cup loss to West Ham on Wednesday. They pushed their way into the top four with the United win and could even go top by the end of the weekend’s play if results go their way.
Here is all you need to know for this meeting of two in-form clubs.
Southampton 0-3 Chelsea – Premier League (2014)
Southampton actually have a noteworthy record against Chelsea at St. Mary’s, but it wasn’t to be in this January clash. Chelsea even had Fernando Torres on the score-sheet, which was certainly a rare sight indeed at the time.
Torres, Willian and Oscar put second-half goals beyond Kelvin Davis to put pressure on league leaders Arsenal with 20 games played. Unsurprisingly, the Gunners duly choked and Manchester City won the league.
Virgil Van Dijk vs Diego Costa
The best is being brought out of Diego Costa at times this season, even if he has been anonymous in some more major games. There is a lot more menace and less distraction around the Spaniard at the moment, and the goals are proving it.
Van Dijk has been even better; only Tottenham have a better defensive record than the Saints, with just eight conceded, and he is the driving force behind that. The odds are certainly in the favour of Southampton letting in one goal if any.
Oriol Romeu vs Eden Hazard
Romeu was unfairly overlooked for his efforts in the Saints’ 1-1 draw with Manchester City last Saturday. His control of the game was spot on as he maintained the balance between packed defence and springing attack. The same should be happening against the Blues this Sunday.
Hazard seems to have woken up from last season’s slumbers, and has been putting in the performances that had everybody talking about him before. The Belgian netted against Manchester United and will want more – but not if Romeu can get to him first.
Southampton are almost injury-free, though Ryan Bertrand’s hamstring remains an issue. Sam McQueen has been impressive in his absence. A similar team from the City draw should be named, with Sofiane Boufal a hit after his EFL Cup thunderbolt.
Chelsea have wonderful news on long-term injury absentee Kurt Zouma, who is only two weeks away from a return. Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas are now extremely close to their comebacks, with Ivanovic possibly even fit for Sunday’s fixture.
Predicted Southampton XI: Forster, Martina, Fonte, Van Dijk, McQueen, Romeu, Redmond, Clasie, Davis, Tadic, Austin
Predicted Chelsea XI: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso, Pedro, Costa, Hazard
Southampton’s tough defensive organisation will make it extremely difficult for Chelsea to break them even with the new 3-4-3 formation that Antonio Conte has deployed. Expect a similar resolve to that shown against Manchester City, with Forster mostly untroubled.
Chelsea need to return to their better ways after slumping against West Ham in the EFL Cup. If they do manage to win, then their title challenge credentials will be significantly boosted, but the most likely result is a draw.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Chelsea