Match Preview: Chelsea @ Southampton
Match Preview: Chelsea @ Southampton
St. Mary’s Stadium, October 30th, 2016
Every great manager is likely to tell you at some point about the importance of being consistent. Churning out multiple victories in a row is a sure sign of good form, and will almost always reassure the fans, players, and coaches. This past week was a lesson for Chelsea to learn that consistency can be hard to achieve.
Last Sunday Chelsea humiliated Manchester United 4-0, a result that had many Blues fans smiling for hours after the match. I myself proudly wore my jersey out in the world the very next day, daring some lowly Manchester fan to jeer at me. That result should have given Chelsea loads of momentum, but it turned out that wasn’t the case as they lost 2-1 in midweek to London rivals West Ham in the EFL Cup. Chelsea had every reason to win the game: they had the momentum, the Hammers have struggled immensely this season in their new home, and John Terry returned to the line up.
None of that mattered though as they lost a game marred by fan violence in the stands. Antonio Conte will no doubt be looking to the Southampton game as another opportunity to begin another win streak.
After the events of the past few weeks one thing is becoming clear: captain John Terry struggles in a back 3 formation. He was a healthy scratch the past few Premier League games and did not look comfortable midweek. Perhaps this might be a good thing as a club with aspirations such as Chelsea must not have to keep relying on an aging centre-back to hold the team together. It may finally be time to begin phasing the club legend out of the first team line up. Still, it is a bit awkward to have your captain be a bench player.
Whether Terry starts or sits on Sunday may conclusively determine how Conte plans to use him going forward. Something else to watch out for is whether Willian is included in the starting lineup. He returned from a personal leave and played the full 90 against West Ham, but didn’t look great. Add the fact that Pedro opened the scoring for Chelsea last week and looked lively, Conte may choose to go with the on-form player right now.
Injuries: Fabregas (out). Zouma (unlikely). Mikel (questionable).
Like Chelsea the Saints are also coming off an EFL Cup match on Wednesday and, unlike Chelsea, they managed to win 1-0 over Sunderland. They have had some good form of late, as they have not lost a match against English competition since September 10th at Arsenal. The real question to be faced however is how they stack up against a big team like Chelsea. Southampton’s wins this year have come against the likes of Swansea, Crystal Palace, Burnley, etc. When playing against England’s elite, they have lost against Manchester United and Arsenal, as well as draws against Leicester City and Manchester City.
For Claude Puel’s men to be taken seriously, they have to prove they can win against the best of teams so you can be sure they will be motivated to beat Chelsea on their own turf. That will be a tough task made tougher by the fact that both of their starting full backs (Ryan Bertrand and Cedric) are injured and may very well miss this match. If the Saints can manage to contain Chelsea’s front three and find ways to test Courtois at the other end, they can certainly get a result in this one.
Injuries: Long and Pied (out). Bertrand, Targett, Cedric (unlikely). Rodriguez, Hesketh (questionable).
Three Matchups to Watch
Costa vs. Van Dijk/Fonte: the centre-back duo of José Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk may possibly be the most underrated pairing in the Premier League. Fonte is a Euro winner with Portugal this year and Van Dijk, at 25 years old, is turning into a rising Dutch star. Last week they managed to tame none other than Sergio Aguero. They’ll have another tough test today as the face the goal-scoring leader so far in Diego Costa, but they certainly can shut the Spaniard down.
Matić vs. Romeu: Nemanja Matić is currently tied for most assists in the Premier League. Yeah, you read that right, no one has more assists this year than Matić. While I still can’t bring myself to think about him as an offensive player, the stats show that is exactly what he has been in Conte’s system. I never thought I would say this, but making sure Matić doesn’t get much ball time far up the field may be key and Oriol Romeu will be the man tasked with ensuring that doesn’t happen.
Hazard vs. Cuco Martina: I said it last week and I’ll say it again: Eden Hazard looks invigorated in this new formation. His goal last week against Manchester United was vintage Hazard and he seems to be enjoying his football again. The stage is set for him to have another good match as Cuco Martina is pencilled in to be the right back for the Saints with Cedric injured. Martina isn’t exactly a dominating full back, although he may need to be to tame Hazard.
- Soufiane Boufal was easily Southampton’s most outstanding player in their midweek Cup game and may replace Charlie Austin as the striker up front.
- The two teams split their meetings last season with each away side winning. Chelsea, then under Hiddink, won 2-1 thanks to an 89th minute Ivanović header.
About the author
Navaneeth Ravichandran, @navrav28
Navaneeth is currently a university student at UBC in Vancouver, Canada. He enjoys many sports other than football, especially a passion for ice hockey, as almost every Canadian does. He has been a Blues fan since 2007 and will continue to be a loyal fan till the day he dies.