Chelsea got back to winning ways against Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but the visitors didn’t make it easy for Jose Mourinho’s men, scoring after just 13 seconds. For large parts of the match the Saints were stronger, faster and more creative than the home side, but goals from John Terry (in his 400th Premier League appearance), Gary Cahill and Demba Ba completed a fine 3-1 victory that moved the Blues up to second in the table.
Four points behind leaders Arsenal (who won 3-0 at Cardiff on Saturday), Mourinho will be hoping his side can capitalise on any slips by the Gunners over the hectic festive schedule, but earning three points from this trip up to the North East will be no foregone conclusion for the Pensioners.
Since Gus Poyet was brought in to replace Paolo Di Canio (whose reign was marked by erratic performances both on the pitch and in the dugout) the Black Cats have appeared a much-improved outfit. When playing at the Stadium of Light they have beaten local rivals Newcastle (to whom Chelsea lost recently) and also got the better of Southampton in the League Cup (who – as mentioned – gave almost as good as they got at Stamford Bridge on Sunday). Their biggest result, however, was the 1-0 victory over Manchester City, and though Manuel Pellegrini’s men haven’t travelled at all well this season, it is a result that will give Poyet’s team confidence of a similar result against the Blues.
This makes them dangerous opponents, and given Mourinho’s men have lost two of their last three away games (against Newcastle and Basel, both of whom they would be expected to beat), Chelsea fans would be forgiven a few nerves ahead of this one.
Having said that, coming back from a goal down – and, to be honest, being comprehensively outplayed early on – against the Saints will give Chelsea a massive boost ahead of this one. As might the fact that Juan Mata was given a full 90 minutes, and took his chance, playing his part in most of the good moves the home side created. If Mata is given another start on Wednesday – as he should given Oscar will probably miss out after picking up a knock on Sunday – we think the Spaniard will inspire the Blues to victory. And while it won’t be easy (the “new manager effect” still inspiring commitment and energy amongst the Sunderland playing staff) we think victory by a one-goal margin could be on the cards for Chelsea on Wednesday.
There is a chance Mourinho will go with two up top as his side looked far more dangerous on Sunday in the second half when Ba and Fernando Torres were both on the pitch. But whether he does or not we fancy a relatively close match that is just edged by the visitors as Chelsea continue to hang on to Arsenal’s coattails.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1