Premier League | St Mary's | Wed 1 Jan | 3pm
Three more points for the Blue machine as Mourinho's maestros click into gear. Or is it?
After 11 games this season Southampton were 3rd in the Premier League. They were young, they were hip, they were vibrant, with a cool, exotic manager and a Roy of the Rovers, fairytale striker who went from licking stamps at his local post office for eight hours a day until there was no saliva left in his brave mouth to playing for England, or something like that.
- Everton 2-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-3 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 2-3 Spurs (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- S'land e2-1 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-1 Palace (Prem)
Since the 4-1 win over Hull - a thoroughly convincing demolition of the Tigers in which Southampton really did look the real deal - however, the Saints have managed just one win, putting the final nail in the Malky Mackay era coffin at Cardiff with a 3-0 victory. One win in eight games, despite creditable draws with Manchester City and Newcastle, has seen Southampton tumble down to 9th, six points behind Newcastle in 8th. It's been a sobering end to a successful 2013 at St. Mary's.
By contrast, Chelsea have won six of their eight league games since a… rather kind refereeing decision against West Brom helped the Special One salvage his unbeaten Premier League home record on the same day as the Saints' Hull humping. Only Stoke and Arsenal have taken any points from Chelsea since, leaving the Blues two points off the top despite all the talk of the title credentials of Arsenal and Man City and Liverpool and, well, anyone but Chelsea.
In the ominous way Mourinho's team continues to hang in the title race despite looking somehow incomplete - not one Chelsea striker managed to score a single Premier League goal away from home in the entirety of 2013, for goodness sake - the sense increases that once they truly find their rhythm they could really take some stopping.
Chelsea have injury doubts over Branislav Ivanovic, John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard, while David Luiz is suspended and gets to go on the nice little break to Portugal Mourinho promised him during Luiz's post-match interview on Sky. Marco van Ginkel remains a long term absentee. Ramires returns from suspension.
For Southampton, Artur Boruc (hand) and Victor Wanyama (leg) are definitely out while Pablo Osvaldo could return from a leg injury in time to feature.
Player to watch: John Terry (Chelsea)
Can anybody find us the odds on Terry making England's World Cup squad for Brazil this summer? Sure, everybody knows what's gone on in the past, but words are just words (Samuel Eto'o vowed never to play under Mourinho before Inter, Alan Smith vowed never to play for Manchester United while at Leeds) and, as we've seen countless times in the past (think of the striker Terry just faced in his last game, for instance), principles die hard when success is at stake.
At this moment in time - based purely on on-field affairs - the Chelsea skipper would surely warrant a recall. In two of the Blues' biggest games of the season so far, against Arsenal and Liverpool, Terry was outstanding - winning tackles, making clearances, distributing the ball from the back intelligently and drawing admiration from our very own press-box dwellers Ben Welch and Andy Murray.
Chelsea's away record is far from the best. They've lost as many games as they've won - boasting a neatly symmetrical record that reads played 9, won 3, drawn 3, lost 3. They'll need their Captain Fantastic to put in another solid performance at the back if they're to improve that record and pick up three more valuable points in the race for first place.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 3-1 Saints (Prem, Dec 13)
- Saints 2-1 Chelsea (Prem, Mar 13)
- Chelsea 2-2 Saints (Prem, Jan 13)
- Saints 1-5 Chelsea (FAC, Jan 13)
- Saints 1-3 Chelsea (Prem, Apr 05)
Pochettino took a leaf out of the Mourinho moaners' manual this week when he slammed officials for not awarding his side a penalty in the 2-1 defeat at Everton.
"We have been suffering all season long. Many injustices have gone against us," the Argentine said, before mumbling something about his 'young, handsome players'.
Despite this, the Saints boss is happy with his team's progress. "I think the evolution is correct, it's positive. We're on the right path. The team has many young players - we're a very young side."
Saturday's referee will therefore be stuck between a rock and a hard place come kick-off, with the away team manager also voicing his frustration at decisions made in Chelsea's win over Liverpool.
Mourinho complained that Eden Hazard should have had a 'double penalty' (whatever that is) after being fouled by Lucas, before ranting that not one media pundit is 'a Chelsea man'. Pat Nevin, Ruud Gullit, Ray Wilkins, Glenn Hoddle, Marcel Desailly and Craig Burley must all be feeling suitably shunned.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Saints have only won 1 of their last 9 Premier League games against Chelsea (D3 L5), but that was in this fixture last season.
- Frank Lampard has scored 4 goals in his last 5 Premier League starts against Southampton.
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Southampton won this fixture last season, but it's tough to see history repeating itself here. Chelsea win 2-1.