Our Premier League programme continues this Wednesday evening when we entertain Southampton. Rafa Benitez will be hoping that his squad can turn around a slump in home form that has seen Chelsea defeated twice on the bounce with Queens Park Rangers taking all three points in a Premier League clash and Swansea beating us in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final. Southampton; recently thrashed 5-1 by us in the FA Cup, will be looking for revenge and heap further misery on Rafa, but who will prevail?
Ahead of the fixture with Southampton, at his pre-match press conference, Rafa Benitez spoke about, in a roundabout manner, the unrest he faces from those who are reluctant to accept him as our new boss, remarking,
“Every proper fan wants their team to win. Some of them will show more or less passion but everyone wants us to beat Southampton.”
“My priority is not to think about me but about the team winning.”
“But yesterday I came back to London from seeing my family and a few Chelsea fans on the train told me they were pleased with how I was working.”
“They see I`m a professional and appreciate what I do.”
“I`ve contact with some fans but I don`t have time to be talking with everyone because we`ve a game every three days and my job is to prepare the team. It`s my job to manage the side, analyze everything, talk with the players and staff and then make decisions.”
“Even when I explain some of my reasons for selecting certain players, people still criticize me.”
“So the way to go forward is to concentrate on the positives. And we have a lot of that positivity around the club.”
Is it time to get behind Rafa?
Chelsea Team News:
Chelsea go into this fixture boosted by the news that both Demba Ba and Fernando Torres are fit again after their battles with hamstring and illness problems recently. Captain John Terry is fit again but a lack of match fitness may see JT on the bench.
However, the African Cup of Nations deprives Rafa of both John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses, both of whom are in the Nigeria squad.
Also out is Oriel Romeu who is out with a long term knee injury whilst a recent bench occupant, Lucas Piazon, is now on loan at Malaga, until the end of the season.
A bonus though is the availability of Gary Cahill who missed the victory at Stoke after rushing to be with his partner as she gave birth.
Player to watch: Frank Lampard
His penalty, at Stoke, edged him ahead of Kerry Dixon in the all-time scoring list at Chelsea, with eight needed to catch Bobby Tambling, can Frank edge closer on Wednesday evening.
Southampton Team News:
Nigel Adkins has a few injury concerns ahead of the clash. Luke Shaw, linked with a move to Chelsea, will be absent with a knee problem whilst Jose Fonte, also with a knee problem, isn`t available.
The highly rated midfielder Adam Lallana is also unavailable with a knee problem. However, we expect the former Chelsea youngster, Jack Cork, to be in the squad.
Player to watch: Ricky Lambert
The Saints striker has scored in every division and whilst some doubted he could operate at Premier League level, he`s proved them wrong.
Match Facts & Stats
We welcome Southampton to Stamford Bridge with a decent record against them. Chelsea have won the last five against the Saints, in league and cup fixtures.
Its eleven years since Southampton won at Stamford Bridge when they triumphed 4-2 on New Year`s Day 2002. A certain James Beattie scored twice that day, the same James Beattie who is now a player-coach at Accrington Stanley.
Our officials for this encounter are:-
Referee – M. Oliver
Assistant – S. Burt
Assistant – P. Kirkup
Fourth Official – H. Webb
Although, not quite a fortnight ago, we routed Southampton 5-1 in the FA Cup, on there own patch, Wednesday evening will be a completely different affair. Southampton are fighting for every point to try and secure their Premier League future and will be a tough nut to crack. But I`m taking Chelsea to win and end the recent run of poor home results.
Next up is a tasty looking encounter at Stamford Bridge, this Sunday,, with Arsenal.