Southampton have a chance to avenge their heavy FA Cup defeat to Chelsea when the two clubs meet again in the English Premier League.
Nigel Adkins’ team were thumped 5-1 at home by Chelsea in the third round of the FA Cup on January 5, the hosts giving up a one-goal lead before being put to the sword in front of their own fans at St Mary’s Stadium.
That loss interrupted a promising sequence of league results for the promoted club – Southampton had previously managed three successive draws against Fulham, Stoke City and Arsenal.
And they bounced back from defeat in the Cup by beating Aston Villa 1-0 at home last time out, Southampton’s improved form demonstrating Chelsea are unlikely to have it all their own way in the match at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Rafael Benitez’s team have been inconsistent in recent weeks, beating Stoke City 4-0 away last time out, but suffering defeats at home to Swansea City and Queens Park Rangers in the League Cup and Premier League respectively.
Despite those mixed results, Chelsea sit third on the table, a point ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham and are on track to claim a Champions League berth.
The west London side have been buoyed by the acquisition of striker Demba Ba from Newcastle United.
Ba netted twice on debut in the Cup victory at Southampton, and Senegal’s failure to qualify for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations means – unlike some African players at other clubs – Chelsea will not lose his services during January and early February.
Nigeria forward Victor Moses will, however, be away at the tournament and his absence, together with the sale of Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool, leaves Ba and the misfiring Fernando Torres as Chelsea’s only dedicated strikers.
Chelsea will be missing Moses’ Nigeria team-mate, midfielder John Obi Mikel, while holding player Oriol Romeu is sidelined indefinitely with a serious knee injury.
For Southampton, Jay Rodriguez – who appeared guilty of simulation to win the decisive penalty against Villa – and powerful centre-forward Rickie Lambert must shoulder goal-scoring responsibilities as Adkins’ team look to increase the two-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone.
Southampton are without defender Jose Fonte and midfielder Adam Lallana, both due to knee injuries, but in-demand fullback Luke Shaw could return from a gashed leg.