Best Odds: 11/10
Premier League leaders Chelsea have a chance to make an important step towards the league title against Southampton as they look to build up on the FA Cup success and to make amends for the frustrating Manchester United defeat last time out.
It’s been a tough week for Chelsea who faced two great teams in two different competitions, Manchester United and Tottenham in the Premier League and FA Cup, respectively. The Blues got completely outplayed by Jose Mourinho’s men at Old Trafford but Antonio Conte did well enough to motivate his players and get them ready for what turned to be quite an eye-catching FA Cup clash against London rivals Tottenham. The Italian boss made a couple of changes to his starting line-up as he left both of his influential forwards – Eden Hazard and Diego Costa – to give chance to Willian and Michy Batshuayi to shine. The Brazilian grabbed his opportunity firmly with a first-half brace, whereas it was Conte’s defensive experiment with Nathan Ake in the backline’s heart that proved problematic as Blues conceded twice to bring this semifinal game into nail-biting closing stages. Conte’s brilliantly masterminded his way to victory by introducing Diego Costa and Eden Hazard with the latter scoring the third goal for his team before teeing Nemanja Matic for his 80th-minute thunderbolt which solved the match. The Blues turn their attention back to the Premier League reinvigorated and keen to record important three points that will keep them with four-point advantage over Spurs.
Antonio Conte is expected to reinstall Diego Costa and Eden Hazard back to the starting berth after resting his two stars for the FA Cup semi-final clash.
Defensively speaking, the Italian is in for a dilemma as to who gets to replace Gary Cahill, who is struggling with illness.
Claude Puel’s men have been struggling with consistency throughout the Premier League season, although the Saints have displayed occasional moments of brilliance and made great promise under their new boss. The ninth place in the standings can be considered a success given the erratic form Southampton enjoyed lately, but the fans will be disgruntled as they expected their team would be able to join the fight for European places this term. The Saints have been alternating between wins and defeats on the road in their last eight matches, whereas they failed to win two in a row on travels thus far which tends to suggest their win at West Brom last time out is about to be cancelled at Stamford Bridge. It more than pure chance and probability this time however, as Saints will be up for a proper challenge against arguably the best team in the league which has no alternative but to win. Southampton are coming from a 3-0 defeat by Manchester City, who completely outclassed Saints. Claude Puel’s men are having big problems against big boys this season as they have only won one game against the top seven sides in the table and that is another discouraging piece of statistics to give thought to ahead of this clash.
Oriol Romeu returns to the fold after suspension, but Alex McCarthy, Virgil van Dijk and matt Target are all unavailable.
Charlie Austin is getting close to full fitness following his shoulder injury, but the Chelsea match is coming too early for the Saints forward.
Key Factors to Consider
- Blues only lost 2 of their last 20 home matches, winning 18 of them
- Chelsea kept 13 clean sheets in the Premier League this season
- Saints won only 1 game against teams in top seven this term
- Eden Hazard and Diego Costa return after being rested in FA Cup
- Chelsea hold 4-point lead at the top of the standings in from Tottenham
We cannot look past Chelsea winning the match as Antonio Conte’s men simply can’t afford any more slip-ups this season. The Blues are expected to go hard straight from the off and will be keen to wrap this game up and put a bow on to it as soon as possible.
Best Odds: 11/10
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