Southampton return to St.Mary’s on Sunday after three consecutive away games and opponents don’t get much harder than this as Mark Hughes’ side entertain an unbeaten Chelsea side thriving under new manager Maurizio Sarri.
After consecutive Premier League losses on the road and a disappointing draw in the last home game against Brighton, it is vital that Southampton get the fans on their side with a performance against one of the shining sides of the Premier League thus far; the players should also be uplifted by the League Cup victory at Everton in midweek as well! There is a possibility that Chelsea are lethargic come Sunday given that they played in the Europa League against a stubborn Videoton side on Thursday and had to grind out a narrow 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
It can be argued that Southampton’s performances haven’t warranted some of the results that have come their way but at the end of the day it’s the results that matter and one against 3rd-place Chelsea on Sunday would give the football club a huge boost going into another international break!
However, holding Sarri’s side will be an incredibly difficult test, let alone beating them, given that their expansive, free flowing football has seen them score 15 goals in just seven Premier League games. On the other hand, we’ve seen that they can be frustrated by sides who remain sturdy and patient; the 0-0 draw against West Ham two weeks ago is a prime example. The Saints will have to accept that Chelsea will hold the majority of the possession but will have to be fully focused to not concede, especially early on, and to also take the one or two chances that they may create if they are to get a result on Sunday.
Both sides have fully fit squads at their disposal with Southampton’s Shane Long and Moi Elyonoussi recovering from problems.
However, Chelsea could play numerous players given their midweek game and rest a few of those who started on Thursday night. However, looking at their game against West Ham which was after a Europa League tie, they should start with almost their strongest side.
EDEN HAZARD: The big one. This man has been no short of sensational under the wing of Sarri who’s passing football seems to have benefitted the Belgian massively. With six goals so far this season, Hazard has looked incredibly sharp and will no doubt cause Southampton problems on Sunday. We know what the 27-year old is capable of having seen him in the Premier League for a number of years now, however there’s something extra that he has in his locker which is a worry for the Saints.
JORGINHO: The £50m summer signing from Napoli has been a bit of an unsung hero for Chelsea and has been a major reason as to why their football has been so eye-catching so far this term. The Italian followed Sarri from Naples to West-London, being a prodigy of the so-called “Sarri-ball”, and his passing ability from deep has allowed the players ahead of him to having freedom and create good scoring opportunities. Keep him quiet and Chelsea may be underwhelming on Sunday.
OLIVIER GIROUD: We know how much Giroud loves a goal against Southampton and I wouldn’t be surprised if his hot streak against them continued on Sunday. Having scored at St.Mary’s three times last season (once for Arsenal and twice for Chelsea) as well as getting a goal in the FA Cup semi-final, Giroud will feel confident that he can get on the score sheet against Southampton once again, especially due to the fact that Alvaro Morata started on Thursday night and could be rested, paving the way for the Frenchman.
LAST 5 RESULTS (ALL COMPS.):
Everton 1-1 Southampton (3-4 on penalties) – Carabao Cup
Wolves 2-0 Southampton – Premier League
Liverpool 3-0 Southampton – Premier League
Southampton 2-2 Brighton – Premier League
Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton – Premier League
Chelsea 1-0 Videoton – Europa League
Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool – Premier League
Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea – Carabao Cup
West Ham 0-0 Chelsea – Premier League
PAOK 0-1 Chelsea – Europa League
If Southampton are going to get a result they will have to sit deep given their lack of threat up-front. Of course, fans won’t be happy to see this but frustrating Chelsea will allow them to stay in the game and if a good chance comes and it is taken then we’ll be celebrating all night! However, given the quality of the outfit we are coming up against I think that even giving it a good go may not be enough.
Southampton 1-3 Chelsea