St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton
March 30, 2013; 15:00 GMT
Chelsea FC will travel St Mary’s Stadium to take on Southampton, to start off what’s going to be an extremely hectic schedule, with the club competing on three fronts – the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League – and with the FA Cup replay against Manchester United in two days time definitely on their mind.
Southampton, under Mauricio Pochettino, have won only twice in 8 games but those wins have come against Manchester City and Liverpool; the latter was comprehensively beaten 3-1 on 16th March in what has been the highlight of their season thus far. The Saints are 7 points above the relegation zone and intend to secure their safety before the relegation dogfight begins. At St Mary’s, they already have two big scalps to their name, and Chelsea should be wary of the threat their opponents pose at home.
Chelsea are presently fourth in the table with 52 points, two points behind Tottenham, having a game in hand. Their Champions League qualification mission is certainly on track but with Arsenal also breathing down their necks, they’ll have to win these games, if they are to secure a top-four finish.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Saints may be without the services of Adam Lallana and Jos Hooiveld, all of whom are uncertain to shake off their injuries in time for Chelsea’s visit on Saturday. Luke Shaw had pulled out from England under-21 duty, but may just be ready in time to make the starting eleven.
With Boruc in goal, Pochettino will line up his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The only change in defense from the team that defeated Liverpool a couple of weeks back can be the inclusion of Fonte in place of Hooiveld, who’s injured; the remaining positions in the Saints’ backline will be taken by Clyne (right-back), Yoshida (centre-back) and Shaw (left-back). Former Chelsea boy, Jack Cork, will continue to partner Schneiderlin in front of the back-four, with Lallana (if fit), Ramirez and Rodriguez forming the third band behind Rickie Lambert.
Southampton will look to capitalize on any chinks in the Chelsea armor, in case Rafa decides to rest more players than he should this weekend.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Cork, Schneiderlin; Lallana, Ramirez, Rodriguez; Lambert
Apart from Ramires (thigh) and Gary Cahill (knee), who are doubtful to be fit in time, all regular Chelsea starters will be available for selection should Rafa decide to field them against Southampton. With the United game less than 48 hours later, Chelsea should ideally start most of their key players in this game, just to get them operating together at top gear, especially after a long international break, and then substitute them at the right time.
In line with the standard 4-2-3-1 blueprint, Cech will start between the posts, behind Azpilicueta, Terry, Luiz and Cole in defense. Mikel and Lampard will form the double-pivot, with Lampard joining most, if not all, attacks and Mikel keeping things secure behind him. In this game, Benitez may just be tempted to field all of Chelsea’s young playmakers in Mata, Hazard and Oscar just to decipher what his line-up should be against United. As it has become customary in Premier League games, Demba Ba will spear-head the Chelsea attack.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Mata, Hazard, Oscar; Ba
- Chelsea have scored at least 2 goals in their last 5 matches against Southampton in all competitions.
- Chelsea have won their last 3 away matches against Southampton in all competitions.
- Chelsea have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 3 away matches in the Premier League.
Player To Watch Out For
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
What a special player Eden is! After started off his career in England in bombastic fashion, he’d slowed down and was lacking in consistency, but of late, the swagger is back and with it his ability to change the course of games in a matter of minutes. On his day, he is untouchable – defenders fall, defenses collapse, and all goalkeepers can do is watch in awe as the ball goes past them. He’d scored against Southampton in the reverse fixture and at St Mary’s Stadium, if Southampton have to take anything out of this game, they will have to find a way to keep Hazard in check.
Southampton 1-3 Chelsea
Chelsea appear to have moved on from the disastrous form they were in when Southampton went to Stamford Bridge and snatched a point despite trailing 2-0, and should be able to register an away win on Saturday.
Blast From The Past