Thursday, Sunday: rinse, repeat. That’s the pattern of Chelsea’s season going forwards and one of the biggest challenges facing Maurizio Sarri. The Italian has taken to life in English football with aplomb but balancing the demands of domestic football with the Europa League has proven too much for countless managers and teams over the years.
Sarri has shown so far that he is not going to simply sacrifice the Europa League. Yes, he rotated for the matches against PAOK and MOL Vidi but they were still pretty strong sides full of first teamers and internationals. You could argue that the decision to play a strong side in Greece had a negative impact on Chelsea’s performance in the London derby against West Ham but that was more to do with the travel problems that affected their journey home than the match itself. Certainly, Thursday’s home match against MOL Vidi cannot be used as an excuse should the Blues fail to beat Southampton in a match where they are the strong favourites.
Team News: Big Guns to Return for South Coast Trip
Maurizio Sarri has won many fans in football for his unique style of play. Chelsea fans have definitely been delighted with what they’ve seen so far of ‘Sarri-ball’ but the amount of high intensity work that Sarri demands his players get through does require a fair amount of recovery work. That’s why he gave some of his star players the night off on Thursday but you can expect all the big guns to return for the trip to St Mary’s.
Away from the squad rotation, Chelsea are nearing a full bill of health for Sunday’s match. Pedro is working his way back to full fitness after his shoulder problem, Andreas Christensen should be fit enough for a place on the bench and the same is true of Ruben Loftus-Cheek who is desperate for a chance to impress in a Chelsea shirt after doing so well for Crystal Palace and England last season.
The other selection news is that Rob Green, Danny Drinkwater and Lucas Pizaon are available for selection but it would take a major sickness bug to pass through the squad for either of those to see any game time.
As a player, Mark Hughes won a huge number of fans wherever he played. That very much includes at Stamford Bridge where Sparky is still fondly remembered for the role that he and his goals played in the club’s resurgence in the 1990s. As a manager, however, Hughes has found it easier to alienate fans than win them over.
A growing number of Southampton fans are falling out of love with Hughes. He did some very good work to keep the Saints up last season but their early season form has been horrible. Southampton have just one win and five points to show from their opening seven matches. They managed to squeeze past Everton on penalties in midweek but after throwing a two goal lead away against Brighton they lost their last two league matches with an aggregate score of 5-0.
Southampton v Chelsea Head to Head
Southampton are one of those teams that Chelsea would love to play every week. The Blues have won the last six straight meetings against the Saints including three matches last season. In fact, the Saints have got the better of Chelsea just twice in their last 21 meetings.
- Chelsea 2-0 Southampton, Apr2018
- Southampton 2-3 Chelsea, Apr 2018
- Chelsea 1-0 Southampton, Dec 2017
- Chelsea 4-2 Southampton, Apr 2017
- Southampton 0-2 Chelsea, Oct 2016
- Chelsea to Win and Under 2.5 Goals – 3/1 with Ladbrokes
- Chelsea/Chelsea in Half Time/Full Time – 15/4 with BetVictor
Ever since mounting a successful bid for promotion from the Championship in the 2011/12 season, Southampton have developed a reputation for being a forward thinking club. The club’s owners have invested heavily in the training and analysis facilities which has seen them sign some very good players and make smart managerial appointments. It all went wrong last season though as Mauricio Pellegrino so nearly took the Saints down and the club seemed almost lumbered with Hughes after he somehow managed to save them.
For the first time in a long time, Southampton fans are seriously concerned about the direction in which their club is heading. That’s a feeling that Chelsea fans are more accustomed to but the one major benefit of Roman Abramovich’s revolving door policy is that the potential for good times is just around the corner. The Stamford Bridge faithful and those who follow Chelsea on the road know to enjoy it when the team is playing well and we think they’ll very much enjoy the trip to St Mary’s.
Chelsea are perhaps the last team that Southampton would choose to face given their problems at the moment and you’d have to say anything other than an away win would be a surprise on Sunday in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Even when Chelsea haven’t quite hit their stride under Sarri’s management, they’ve been able to dominate possession and control the flow of a game. Hughes will doubtless send his team out to stifle Chelsea’s play by limiting their space on the ball. While that will likely frustrate the Blues for significant periods of the match, Chelsea are more than capable of the patience required to break the home side down.
That leads us to two betting tips. The first is on Chelsea winning and there being under 2.5 goals in the match at a biggest price of 3/1 with Ladbrokes. Southampton are in real trouble but they’re not going to roll over and let Chelsea win so we’re not expecting a classic. The second way of profiting from Chelsea wearing Southampton’s resistance down is by taking the odds of 15/4 that BetVictor are quoting on the Draw/Chelsea selection in their half time/full time market.