Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League could be cut down to two points by the time they kickoff on Sunday as Manchester City travel to Burnley the day before.
José Mourinho’s team will be top of the table and will have two games in hand on the defending champions prior to a ball being kicked at Stamford Bridge. The Blues will be looking to bounce back from their surprise UEFA Champions League exit on Wednesday.
Southampton haven’t played since 3 March when they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 – ending a three-game sequence without a win or even a goal. Ronald Koeman’s side have slipped up in recent weeks, winning only two of their last seven and losing four during this run. Their record versus the top sides in recent season’s hasn’t been good – they’ve already lost at Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham this season, although did pick up three points at Old Trafford in mid-January.
John Obi Mikel is the only absentee for Chelsea who picked up no injuries in their two-hour match with Paris Saint-Germain midweek.
Emmanuel Mayuka is still sidelined for the Saints and has barely featured this season. Jay Rodriguez hasn’t featured this season and is still out with the injury he picked up towards the end of last season.
Filipe Luís to replace César Azpilicueta at left-back to give the Spaniard a break after playing two hours midweek. Kurt Zouma could come in for Gary Cahill at centre-back but with think Mourinho will go with the more experienced defender against a clever attack, albeit one that hasn’t been firing too well of late. Oscar only played 45 minutes midweek so will be fresh, Eden Hazard wants to play every game and Juan Cuadrado is a straight swap for Willian on the right. Diego Costa has just one goal in his last seven games in all competitions.
Southampton will also line up in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Toby Alderweireld is set to return to action and Ryan Bertrand is set to face his former club following his January transfer. Graziano Pellè leads the line with his eight goals this season but the Italian scored six of those in his first eight Premier League games and hasn’t scored in his last 11. Has some lively players supporting him in attack and Eljero Elia is another option to Koeman.
Eden Hazard vs Nathaniel Clyne
The highly-rated Southampton right-back faces a tough test against one of the best players in the world. Eden Hazard tears most defences apart down that left wing and drifting into the centre. Has not been able to provide Diego Costa with much of late but that’s not to say he won’t on Sunday and has plenty of goalscoring teammates in midfield to supply also. Clyne has done well in pinning a number of wingers to the touchline this season but he’ll have a mammoth task at Stamford Bridge against the Belgian.
Oscar vs Morgan Schneiderlin
A big match up this – Southampton have a very talented holding midfielder in Morgan Schneiderlin but he’ll be facing the lively and creative Oscar as Chelsea’s number 10. The Brazilian will also be supported by the likes of Cesc Fàbregas and Nemanja Matić pushing forward too. Victor Wanyama will be there to support his teammate but the battle in the centre of the park certainly excites us going into the game.
Sadio Mané vs Branislav Ivanović
One matchup Southampton may like the look of is Sadio Mané up against Chelsea’s right-back. Branislav Ivanović played two hours midweek and can get caught out of position when bombing forward. Southampton’s left winger is quick and has an eye for goal to exploit this. If Mané doesn’t start then Eljero Elia could step into the role to take on the Chelsea defence. Based on Chelsea’s defensive frailties midweek, the Saints should also fancy their chances from set pieces – although you can bet Mourinho’s been working on defending those during the week.
0 – Neither goalkeeper made a save when these two teams drew 1-1 at St Mary’s back in December.
1 – Chelsea are the only side in the top four divisions of English football this season not to have lost a league game at home (11W, 2D).
16 – Chelsea have kept 16 clean sheets in their last 21 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge. Southampton have scored on their last three visits.
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