Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 2/5
It seems as though Chelsea are battling for second-place this year, with their fight to defend their title seemingly over after just 17 games. Manchester City are the best team in England right now, and they can claim to be one of the best in Europe too. 17 games, 16 wins and one draw along with 52 goals is a frightening record, and they have blown every other team out of the water this season, including the reigning champions. By contrast, Chelsea have won 11 games, drawn twice and lost four matches, scoring 31 goals along the way. The Blues’ downfall has been an inability to maintain a strong run of form, with losses adorning their record, while City are on a 15 game winning run. However, the Blues must focus upon themselves as they look to chase down Manchester United, who are three points ahead of them. Their 3-1 win over Huddersfield in the week was an impressive performance considering they were without Alvaro Morata, but the game before that saw them fall to a damaging 1-0 defeat at the hands of West Ham. Clearly, Chelsea are going through a patch of inconsistency that would never facilitate them defending their title. Ultimately, a definite place in the Champions League will be the best they can hope for, and with Tottenham, Liverpool, Burnley and Arsenal all desperate to let the others rise above them, such has been their poor form recently, a place in the top-three is Chelsea’s to lose. In the game against Southampton, Chelsea will be looking to keep the ball for large periods of the match, while patiently probing and waiting for an opening. With the glut of impressive technical players adorning the Chelsea team, they will fancy themselves to cut the Saints open on more than one occasion across the 90 minutes.
Alvaro Morata is reported to have pain in his back, but is in contention to play on Saturday, while David Luiz has inflammation in his knee and does not have an exact return date yet.
Southampton have once again been one of those sides that people think will be challenging for European spots, but end up struggling. Southampton are sitting in 11th-place in the league with 18 points, just four above the relegation zone, and a massive 13 points short of Liverpool in fifth and the last European place. They were impressive in their resolve as they drew 1-1 with Arsenal last Sunday, but any momentum they may have derived from that tie was obliterated as Leicester went to St Mary’s and beat them 4-1. Despite the fact that Southampton are improving, they are still clearly some way behind those above them, and they need that extra spark of brilliance to change them from a good team into a great one. The character of the side will be put to the test in the weeks to come as they face Chelsea this weekend, before taking on Huddersfield, Tottenham and Manchester United. Three of the league’s in-form sides in four games is an incredibly tough test, but it is one that the Saints must look to take points off the sides at the top if they are to close the gap between themselves and the league’s elite teams. Southampton will be looking to isolate Morata in the game after seeing how well West Ham did against the Blues, while putting two men on Eden Hazard in order to stifle him often takes a lot of the sting out of the Chelsea tail.
After shaking off knocks, both Cedric Soares and Shane Long were able to appear against Leicester in the week, meaning they are likely to play some part against Chelsea, which results in the fact that Southampton have no fresh injury concerns going into this one.
Chelsea have won seven of their last nine games in the Premier League.
Chelsea have won all of their last three games against Southampton since losing 3-1 back in October 2015.
The Blues have not kept a clean sheet since their win over Swansea at the end of November (four games without a clean sheet).
Southampton are winless in their last four games.
The gap between the two sides is currently 17 points, with Chelsea winning 11 games, and Southampton earning victory just four times this season.
Southampton will arrive at Stamford Bridge with the gameplan of staying tight and keeping the ball away from their hosts. They were able to keep Arsenal at bay for almost the entire 90 minutes, but they will have to be even better to do the same to Chelsea on their home patch. The Blues will want to continue their goalscoring form from the week by dismantling their opponents on Saturday. With Morata likely to be back, it is difficult to see anything but a Chelsea win.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 2/5
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