In-form Chelsea head to Southampton on Sunday, looking to continue their impressive winning run. The Blues won here last season, but can they boost their push for the top four with another victory at St Mary’s? This will be another significant test of the new system, which has helped send the team on a fantastic run of form.
Southampton finished sixth in the Premier League last season, qualifying for Europe in the process. They may have had another turbulent summer, but recent weeks have seen them turn their fortunes around and start to move up the table. This stadium is a tough place for any side to travel to, so Antonio Conte and co can’t expect an easy ride of things on the South Coast.
Team News: Conte unlikely to rock the boat
Conte isn’t likely to make too many changes after three straight wins. He named the same team for the last two league games, and he made one enforced change between the victories over Hull and Leicester. His switch to three at the back has seen a marked improvement across the side, although there doesn’t seem to be a place for John Terry in that system. So far, he’s been kept out of the team by Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and David Luiz.
We said that the United game would tell us a little more about Conte’s centre-back pecking order. He’s made a statement there; leaving John Terry out is a sign that he isn’t an automatic pick for the big games. Terry faces even more competition in the coming weeks, with Kurt Zouma returning from injury and fighting for a place. The Frenchman just returned to action with the development squad, he played for them in midweek. Once he gets enough minutes, expect him to be fighting for a starting berth. The only realistic switch for this game is the return of Willian, but that would even be a little harsh on Pedro, who has put in two strong performances.
Southampton are missing forward Shane Long, while midfielder Jeremy Pied is also out. The Saints have former Blue Ryan Bertrand back in the side, but their defence has been hit by injuries. Cedric Soares, Matt Targett and Florin Gardos are all expected to miss out. Could that open up their tight defence for the visit of Chelsea? It’s good news for Diego Costa, who is currently the league’s top scorer.
Southampton made a stuttering start to the season, but they’ve really picked up in recent weeks. They claimed a 1-1 draw at Manchester City last weekend, and they’ve won four straight matches at St Mary’s. Those victories have lifted them up to eighth. They’re having a mixed season in the Europa League, but they did completely dominate Inter Milan at the San Siro last week. They may have lost 1-0 away to the Serie A side, but they showed their class by controlling that game.
The Saints had put together a strong defensive record to lift them out of trouble. They had put together a run of six consecutive clean sheets, before conceding in three consecutive games in a week. Shipping a goal away at the Etihad and San Siro isn’t that bad, while they conceded against Burnley in a 3-1 victory. Cluade Puel’s side are a solid unit, and they are building on top of that, with striker Charlie Austin in fantastic scoring form. Can he be the latest to expose Cahill and Luiz’s flaws at the back, or will they keep the former QPR man quiet here?
Chelsea v Southampton Head to Head
The two meetings between these sides last season saw away victories in each, with the game at Stamford Bridge resulting in a 3-1 win for the Saints. That was during the troubled early season under Jose Mourinho, before Guus Hiddink led them to a 2-1 win at St Mary’s in February. Recent meetings have been fairly level, with the Saints becoming an established top eight side in the top flight in recent years. We can see another close encounter when they clash this weekend.
- Southampton 1-2 Chelsea, 27th Feb 2016
- Chelsea 1-3 Southampton, 3rd Oct 2015
- Chelsea 1-1 Southampton, 15th Mar 2015
- Southampton 1-1 Chelsea, 28th Dec 2014
- Southampton 0-3 Chelsea, 1st Jan 2014
- Draw – 12/5 with BetVictor
- 1-1 Draw – 6/1 with Bet365
The Blues come into this one in an impressive run of form, but this is a very difficult place for any side to go. Southampton have really improved after a few dodgy results early on, but they have a strong foundation that they always seem to find after a big summer of losing stars. The Blues haven’t yet ventured too far with their new set up. They did win at Hull, but recent results have shown that’s not really an achievement.
The Hull game actually highlighted a few problems with the system, as those first 45 minutes were really tough for the Blues. It’s easy to see another away trip causing them problems, especially against a side who will be among the top eight once again this term. There are quite a few talented players still at St Mary’s, and we think they’re good enough to hold Chelsea to a draw on Sunday. It’s 12/5 with BetVictor for these two to share the points.
This fixture has always tended to have goals, and we can’t see this game being any different. Given how the Saints are looking a little light at the back, but strong in attack, it’s hard to see there being a clean sheet here. If you look back on the last five meetings, there’s only been one clean sheet. We’re backing a score draw when these two clash. A 1-1 final score is our second tip, it’s a 6/1 shot with Bet365. We’ve seen that scoreline twice in the last four meetings between these two and it looks the option to back.