Southampton travel to West London to take on reigning champions Chelsea, whose crown looks to be slipping away.
In any other season, Chelsea could still have been in contention for the title. But Manchester City, who have now won 15 in a row in the league, look like they should already begin planning their trophy parade route for May. Antonio Conte has also effectively conceded defeat in the race, with his side now focusing on a top four finish and other local and European honours.
Southampton are themselves on a rough run of form. They have now lost 2 of the last 4 fixtures in the league, the last one being a 4-1 defeat at home to Leicester in midweek. Mauricio Pellegrino and his men now find themselves in a precarious position, just 4 points off Crystal Palace in 18th place.
Team news and tactics
Conte has a few worries on the injury front. Alvaro Morata missed the match midweek, but has since resumed training. David Luiz remains on the treatment table with a knee problem.
Due to Morata’s absence at John Smith’s stadium, Chelsea deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation with Eden Hazard leading the line in attack. Although not a natural striker, the Belgian produced a scintillating performance, running the show for the Blues on the night.
Willian too produced a performance to remember in midweek, and could retain his place in the starting eleven. With news of Morata being back in contention, Pedro might drop to the bench for this weekend, with Hazard taking his place on the left just behind the Spaniard.
The midfield, though, could sport a changed look come Saturday. After much criticism, Tiemoue Bakayoko started and scored against Huddersfield, but could drop to the bench in favour of the more attack-minded Cesc Fabregas.
Behind them in defence, after being rested in midweek, Gary Cahill may come straight back in for Antonio Rudiger. Andreas Christensen, who has played almost every game in the absence of Luiz, could continue in the centre of defence yet again.
Probable lineup (3-4-2-1): Courtois (GK), Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Moses; Willian, Pedro; Hazard
Pellegrino has no major injury concerns ahead of this match, but the heavy defeat against Leicester and fixture congestion means some sort of rotation could take place, especially in defence.
They would be expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina sitting in front of the defence. The latter, however, will be given license to join attacks whenever possible. Nathan Redmond would be expected to replace Sofiane Boufal from last time out, and hope to provide more pace going forward.
Although they would be expected to sit back and defend, they could learn a lesson from West Ham who recently beat Chelsea; they scored early and built a wall around the Blues attack, especially keeping Hazard quiet on the night.
Charlie Austin, who is the in-form striker for the Saints, will be expected to lead the line in attack. A quick counter-attack leading to a goal might be one of their best avenues to create chances. The former QPR striker, then, would be expected to convert those into goals. He has scored eight goals in his last 12 Premier League starts, including four in his last four games.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Forster (GK), Bertrand, Hoedt, van Dijk, Soares; Romeu, Lemina; Tadic, Davis, Redmond; Austin
1. Chelsea Asian Handicap -1.0 @ 1.625
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.70
1. Mario Lemina to get booked @ 3.50
Player to watch
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian has been in the form of his life in recent times. Against Huddersfield, despite not having a goal or an assist to his name, he ran the show in attack.
He has scored 11 goals for club and country so far, despite only returning from injury in late August. Not only is his goal-scoring form impressive, but also it is his link up play with Alvaro Morata, and more recently Willian, that has the Chelsea fans salivating for more.
- Chelsea have won more points away this season than at home
- Southampton have failed to win their last 5 away matches in the Premier League
- Chelsea’s last loss to Southampton in the Premier League was a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in October 2015 under Jose Mourinho
- Eden Hazard has been involved in seven goals (4G, 3A) in 10 starts against Southampton in all competitions
- Southampton have kept only 1 clean sheet in their last 24 Premier League fixtures against Chelsea
Chelsea 2-0 Southampton
Given all the quality on the day, Chelsea should be able to beat Southampton. They will be further boosted by Alvaro Morata’s return from injury, and the sensational form of Eden Hazard might just be too much for the Saints. Given how defensively vulnerable the latter have been recently, the Belgian and Spanish pairing will be licking their lips.
However, the visitors will not go away easily as with any Premier League side. They gave a tough time to Manchester City, who needed a 96th minute winner to go past them. Antonio Conte and his side would be wary of taking them lightly.