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The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs Southampton

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CHELSEA FORM

Porto 2-1 Chelsea (CL)

Newcastle 2-2 Chelsea (Prem)

Walsall 1-4 Chelsea (LC)

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (Prem)

Chelsea 4-0 M Tel Aviv (CL)

SOUTHAMPTON FORM

So’ton 3-1 Swansea (Prem)

MK Dons 0-6 So’ton (LC)

So’ton 2-3 Man Utd (Prem)

WBA 0-0 So’ton (Prem)

So’ton 3-0 Norwich (Prem)

Plucky Chelsea attempt to pull further away from the drop zone.

The lowdown

Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Arsenal two weekends ago seemed to suggest that the champions were about to return to form following a poor start to the campaign, with Manchester City’s loss to West Ham United on the same day appearing to put the Blues right back in the title picture. With City again defeated in last Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at White Hart Lane, the Blues had the perfect opportunity to close the gap further against a Newcastle side who had been severely lacklustre in their six previous matches.

Jose Mourinho’s men showed character to leave St James’ Park with a point after finding themselves 2-0 down after an hour, but it was still another poor result that leaves Chelsea eight points off the summit. With their fourth defeat of their season in all competitions following on Tuesday night against Porto in the Champions League, the Londoners are clearly not in the best shape heading into Saturday evening's encounter.

It is difficult to work out exactly what has gone wrong at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho’s decision to delay pre-season for a number of weeks has certainly had an effect on the side’s fitness, but there is still no easy explanation for the loss of form of so many members of the Blues’ squad. More dropped points this weekend would put the increasingly tetchy Portuguese under further pressure.

Southampton have endured a mixed start to the season, winning two, losing two and drawing three of their opening seven fixtures. The 3-1 triumph against Swansea last time out was their most convincing triumph yet, with Ronald Koeman and his Saints looking to win back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since January, when they defeated Manchester United and Newcastle in consecutive weeks.

Southampton’s unlikely top-four challenge in 2014/15 – the south coast side were in the hunt for a Champions League place for most of the season before fading away late on and ultimately finishing 10 points behind Man United – was built on a watertight defence: Saints conceded only 33 goals, the second-best record in the league behind Saturday’s opponents Chelsea (32).

Koeman’s side have looked a little shakier this term, with the defence breached on nine occasions so far. Regaining that solidity would be a huge boost for Saints as they look to finish in the top seven once more; with Graziano Pelle back among the goals, Jay Rodriguez fit again and Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic both in good form, Southampton certainly have enough firepower at the other end of the pitch to trouble anyone in the division.

Team news

Thibaut Courtois is the only Chelsea player sidelined through injury, with Diego Costa set to serve the second of his three-match ban for violent conduct. Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and Oscar will all hope for recalls after being dropped for the Champions League loss to Porto, but John Terry is likely to miss out again having made just one start for the club in their last five games – the League Cup tie at Walsall.

Jordy Clasie, yet to make his league debut after picking up an ankle injury in August, remains a doubt for the visitors, while Florin Gardos and Fraser Forster are long-term absentees. Ryan Bertrand is available for selection again after coming through his first league outing of the season against Swansea unscathed, with Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk now firmly established as the Saints' first-choice centre-backs.

Key battle: Nemanja Matic vs Sadio Mane

Despite being left out in the week, it would be a surprise were Matic not to start against Southampton, with his personal duel with Mane likely to be pivotal. Mane has been deployed both centrally and on the right so far this term, but the Senegal international is always likely to roam across the pitch regardless of his starting position. He caused Chelsea plenty of problems last season, scoring at St Marys and winning a spot-kick (having been fouled by Matic) at Stamford Bridge, and his speed and directness will aid a Southampton side likely to play on the counter. Matic will need to be at his best to contain one of the Premier League’s liveliest customers on Saturday; if he can keep Mane quiet, Chelsea’s task will be made a great deal easier.

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

Chelsea 1-1 Saints (PL, Mar 15)

Saints 1-1 Chelsea (PL, Dec 14)

Saints 0-3 Chelsea (PL, Jan 14)

Chelsea 3-1 Saints (PL, Dec 13)

Saints 2-1 Chelsea (PL, Mar 13)

ALSO ON FFT.COM

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The managers

Mourinho and Koeman worked alongside each other at Barcelona in the late '90s under manager Louis van Gaal, with the latter describing the former as a “good friend” in March. “It was nice in our period in Barcelona and it's always nice to meet Jose and we look forward. When I was with Jose, the assistant of Van Gaal in Barcelona in '98 and '99, it was a long time ago and it's not always easy to know what will happen in the future. At that time he was very ambitious as a coach and he had good coaches to see what he needs to be a successful coach.” The former colleagues have only ever faced off on two occasions as managers – the two draws between Chelsea and Southampton last season.

Facts and figures

  • No side have allowed the opponents more shots on target in the Premier League this season than Chelsea (45), while Southampton have allowed the fewest (17).
  • No Premier League side has scored more headed goals this season than Southampton (4 – level with Leicester), while Chelsea have conceded a league-high 5 goals from headers.
  • Jay Rodriguez has found the back of the net in 2 of his last 3 Premier League appearances against Chelsea and in 3 of his last 5 appearances against the Blues in all competitions.
    More FFT Stats Zone facts

FourFourTwo prediction

A narrow home win. 2-1.

Chelsea vs Southampton LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone

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