Premier League | Stamford Bridge | Sun 1 Dec | 4:10pm
Pochettino’s plot to poke the prickly Portuguese prince.
His toys are still in the pram (for now at least), but Jose’s honeymoon return to Chelsea isn’t quite going to plan.
- Basel 1-0 Chelsea (CL)
- West Ham 0-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-2 WBA (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-0 Schalke (CL)
- Newcastle 2-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 4-1 Hull (Prem)
- Sunderland 2-1 So'ton (LC)
- Stoke 1-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 2-0 Fulham (Prem)
Sure, the Blues are third and only four points behind leaders Arsenal, but had it not been for the struggles of everyone else it could be a whole lot worse for Mourinho’s men.
In midweek they were humbled by Basel for the second time this season, while only a dodgy late Eden Hazard penalty rescued a home point against West Brom following defeat at Newcastle. They did, at least, flatten West Ham at Upton Park last weekend for some welcome respite.
Nobody’s pushing the big red button at Cobham just yet, but things could be better. In truth they probably will be by mid-December – coming up in their next three games are Sunderland, Stoke and Crystal Palace.
But first up it’s darlings Southampton heading to the capital for the second time in as many weeks after their drab 2-0 defeat at Arsenal last time out. If only Artur Boruc was this chap, eh?
Never mind, Mauricio Pochettino’s men are still performing well above expectations – indeed, this is comfortably their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign. After this many games last season they were 19th with eight points.
Unlike then it’s a mean defence keeping the south coast side on top now, and with just seven goals conceded in their last 11 road trips it’s entirely possible they can be the latest side to bother the Blues.
Samuel Eto’o is crocked for a while after straining a muscle in the Champions League, while mad-haired maverick David Luiz will probably miss out for another game with a bruised knee.
For the Saints, Luke Shaw’s dicky hip could see him sidelined against his boyhood team (and, let’s be honest, future club). He may join Jack Cork (ankle), Guly do Prado (knee) and Kelvin Davies on the treatment table. On the plus side for Pochettino, though, Dejan Lovren should make it after illness.
Key battle: Oscar vs Morgan Schneiderlin
The Brazilian was magnificent as Chelsea picked apart West Ham on their own patch last weekend, winning the penalty for Frank Lampard’s opener before helping himself to the second soon after.
Enough eyebrows have been raised as Mourinho continually plumps for the 22-year-old ahead of Juan Mata, but nobody’s suggesting he's wrong now on current form. Oscar is earning his shirt. Hell, at West Ham he even won 8 of his 9 attempted tackles.
Looking to stop him will be tackle-happy FFT favourite Schneiderlin, who is continuing to impress in his second top-flight campaign. There hasn’t been a France call-up for the 24-year-old yet, but he can only carry on doing his thing to impress Didier Deschamps.
At Arsenal last weekend he kept things neat with 48 of his 54 passes completed, created a joint game-high 2 chances and won 5 of his 6 tackles. Consistently key for the Saints.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- So'ton 2-1 Chelsea (Prem, Mar 13)
- Chelsea 2-2 So'ton (Prem, Jan 13)
- So'ton 1-5 Chelsea (FAC, Jan 13)
- So'ton 1-3 Chelsea (Prem, Apr 05)
- Chelsea 2-1 So'ton (Prem, Aug 04)
Both Mourinho and Pochettino have aired caution over their pampered tired teddies after defeats in their last outings.
“I didn’t like anything from the first minute,” moaned Mourinho after Chelsea’s midweek Swiss sorrow. “But I'm not so sad with them, because I understand. The team was not fresh.”
Pochettino, meanwhile, warned: "There are many games coming up and we have to be careful over how we use our players.” Bless ‘em.
Facts and figures
- Chelsea have an identical Premier League record this season to the one they had last time out in the opening 12 games under Roberto Di Matteo (W7 D3 L2), who was sacked at this stage.
More facts at FFT's Chelsea vs Southampton Stats Zone page
Tips and trends
- Only Man City have a better home record than Chelsea this season with the Blues picking up 16 points.
- They have won 5 of their last 8 against top-six teams at home, with 4 of their last 5 ending 2-1.
- Despite impressive away results at Man United and Liverpool this season, Southampton have lost 4 of their previous 6 away matches against top-six clubs.
- Half of those matches have included 3 or more goals and 3 have been L/L results.
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Chelsea are still formidable opposition at Stamford Bridge - last losing at home in the league to QPR! in January. Even the feelgood factor on the south coast won't be enough in West London, but it'll be close. 1-0.