Chelsea will aim to consolidate the third spot on the Premier League table when they take on Southampton at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Saturday will be a busy day in the Premier League, with as many as five matches scheduled in the top flight. The action on Saturday kicks off with a game between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park before Southampton and Chelsea take the field at St. Mary’s in the afternoon.

Southampton’s 2021/22 campaign has been a rollercoaster ride, as they have won only eight of their 30 games thus far but have lost just ten times. But the Saints have a good chance of finishing in the top half, with ninth-placed Crystal Palace a point ahead. That said, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men are currently on a four-game winless run, which has sapped their momentum.

Much like the hosts, Chelsea’s momentum has come to a grinding halt, with the Blues losing back-to-back games in the past week. Before the successive defeats, Chelsea had not been beaten inside ninety minutes in any of their last 14 games across all competitions. But while the loss to Brentford might not have an effect in the Premier League, the result against Real Madrid has left the west Londoners on the brink of elimination from the UEFA Champions League.

Southampton and Chelsea have met each other twice this season, with both games ending all square. However, the most recent clash ended with Thomas Tuchel’s charges prevailing on penalties in the Carabao Cup Round of 16. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Southampton

Ralph Hasenhuttl has been handed a boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Chelsea. On Saturday, the Southampton manager could be bereft of the services of as many as four first-team players, including Chelsea loanee Armando Broja, who is ineligible to face his parent club.

The good news is that Lyanco (match fitness) and Shane Long (ankle) could be available to take on Chelsea, although the duo will face late fitness tests to determine their availability. And while Alex McCarthy is closing in on returning to action, he will likely be unavailable for another week before being in contention to feature for Southampton.

In McCarthy’s continued absence, Fraser Forster picks himself in goal, with Southampton set to line up in a 4-2-2-2 formation against Chelsea. The onus will be on the defenders and the central midfielders to keep things tight and deny the Chelsea playmakers the space to exploit.

Jan Bednarek and Mohammed Salisu should pair up at the heart of the Southampton defence, with Kyle Walker-Peters and former Chelsea youth star Valentino Livramento being the two full-backs. While Walker-Peters and Livramento will carry a significant threat in the final third, they will also be responsible for keeping Chelsea’s two wing-backs quiet.

As for the central midfielders, James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu will aim to keep their Chelsea counterparts in check. At the same time, Ward-Prowse’s output on the dead ball will be crucial for Southampton to remain in the tie for long periods.

Mohamed Elyounoussi and Stuart Armstrong will be the attacking midfielders, with the duo supporting the strike partnership of Che Adams and Adam Armstrong. Elyonoussi and Stuart Armstrong will also create a four-man midfield unit in the defensive phases, with the aim being to deny the Chelsea creators the space to exploit.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Forster; Livramento, Bednarek, Salisu, Walker-Peters; Romeu, Ward-Prowse; Elyounoussi, Stuart Armstrong; Adams, Adam Armstrong

Chelsea

Unlike his counterpart in the Southampton dugout, Thomas Tuchel has a fresh injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to St. Mary’s. The Chelsea boss could be without as many as four first-team players on Saturday.

Romelu Lukaku (Achilles) and Hakim Ziyech (knock) are major doubts heading into the contest against Southampton. At the same time, Ben Chilwell (knee) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (match fitness) are certain absentees and will play no part for Chelsea on Saturday.

Edouard Mendy will hope to redeem himself after a disastrous performance against Real Madrid. Chelsea will line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation in front of the Senegalese goalkeeper, with Trevoh Chalobah, Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger forming the central defensive unit.

Reece James will retain his spot as the right wing-back and hope to provide the creative impetus from his wing. Marcos Alonso could return to the side as the left wing-back, with Mateo Kovacic likely to replace N’Golo Kante as Jorginho’s central midfield partner.

Kovacic’s presence should help Chelsea push forward with purpose instead of looking for hopeful passes. Meanwhile, Ziyech’s doubtful status means Timo Werner could get a chance to impress. Mason Mount will be the creator-in-chief in the final third, with Kai Havertz spearheading the Chelsea attack against Southampton.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Werner; Havertz

Key Stats

  • Southampton have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games against Chelsea (D3 L8), winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in December 2019. The Blues have lost just one of their 13 Premier League games at St Mary’s Stadium against Southampton (W9 D3) and are unbeaten in their last eight visits since a 2-1 loss in March 2013.
  • Southampton have lost their last two home Premier League matches, as many as in their previous 18 at St Mary’s (W8 D8). The Saints last lost three games in a row at home in January/February 2021.
  • Chelsea suffered a 4-1 home defeat against Brentford in their last Premier League game but have never suffered consecutive league defeats under Thomas Tuchel, last doing so in December 2020 under Frank Lampard. Tuchel has managed the most Premier League matches without losing consecutive games in the history of the competition (48).
  • Chelsea have scored more goals from outside the box than any other Premier League side this season (9), with Antonio Rüdiger the seventh Blues player to score such a goal last time out against Brentford.
  • Since Thomas Tuchel’s first such match in February 2021, only Manchester City (21) have won more away Premier League games than Chelsea (16 in 24 games). Only three managers have won as many as 16 of their first 25 away matches in the competition: Pep Guardiola (18), Antonio Conte (18) and Jose Mourinho (19).

Player to Watch

Mason Mount

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The season’s first half belonged to Mason Mount, as the English international created chances galore while finding the back of the net at a good rate. But the Chelsea playmaker has had a stop-start 2022 thus far and has been unable to get into his stride.

However, with Chelsea approaching a crucial point of the season, Mount needs to rediscover his best form to inspire his team to successfully end the campaign. The 23-year-old has recently been linked with Barcelona, but he will likely be committed to Chelsea despite everything happening around the club. It is high time he showed that commitment with a solid display, though.

Prediction

Southampton 1-2 Chelsea

Southampton might not have a lot riding on Saturday’s game, but finishing in the top half of the Premier League will be on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s mind. And with Chelsea stuttering a little in the past week, the Saints will feel their visitors are there for the taking.

The Blues have scored first in their last seven Premier League matches while scoring first in the second half in five of those games. Chelsea ended up on the losing side after doing so last weekend, but things should be different against Southampton. Kai Havertz will likely make a meaningful impact, but Southampton will run Chelsea close before narrowly losing 2-1.

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