Chelsea face a stern test at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Southampton come to town. It will certainly be a sterner test than that offered by Basel on Tuesday night in the Champions League, but the Swiss side still managed to get the better of the Blues by a 1-0 scoreline.
Jose Mourinho’s men put in an impotent display in which they failed to produce even a single shot on target, and many of the players looked as though they were in need of a rest, which is far from ideal given the hectic Christmas schedule is just around the corner.
Given Chelsea looked jaded and devoid of attacking ideas on Tuesday it is a mystery why Mourinho decided to leave Juan Mata on the bench as an unused substitute once again. The Spaniard was Chelsea’s best player last season – and one of the best in the Premier League – and his creative guile could be just what the Blues need at the moment. But the Special One will apparently not be moved, and though Eden Hazard and Oscar possess undoubted talent, Mata could certainly add something to the side.
They will certainly need a spark of creativity on Sunday when they face the meanest defence in the Premier League. Mauricio Pochettino’s men are not one-trick ponies, though, and have a good deal of attacking intent to go with their exceptionally hard-working and well organised midfield and defence. In Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez, the Saints have a group of players capable of mixing it up in attack, playing it on the ground or in the air and this has allowed a combination of directness and patient build up which has undone many a side this season.
Having already beaten Liverpool (who are currently in second place in the Premier League table, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference alone) at Anfield as well as earning a well deserved point at Old Trafford against champions Manchester United, the Saints will be fancying their chances ahead of their trip to the Bridge, especially if they watched how West Brom came so close to victory there before the international break.
On that occasion Mourinho’s men were very lucky to escape with a point after an injury time penalty was awarded to the home side (and converted, much to the relief of Blues fans). Chelsea will need to put in a much more rounded performance on Sunday as Southampton are better organised and more skilful than the Baggies. In some ways a home draw might not be a bad result, and we expect a close encounter as both sides battle for supremacy but ultimately cancel one another out. Given that 11 of the Saints’ 12 league matches this season have produced two goals or fewer, we don’t anticipate a goalfest, and a 0-0 or 1-1 draw could be on the cards.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea 1-1 Southampton