It`s back to the delights of domestic football this weekend, after the boredom of international football, when Chelsea travel to the South Coast to take on a resurgent Southampton side, now managed by the Argentine, Mauriccio Pochettino. It promises to be a tough game but one, on paper, you`d expect Chelsea to win.
Having jumped above Spurs, in the table, to go third, Chelsea have got a little momentum going and although the fixture list is congested, Rafa Benitez is looking on the positive side when he remarks ahead of the clash with Southampton,
“It is better to have this schedule because it means you are still competing.”
“With a top side, the last month in the season is when you fight for trophies. We are still there and it is a positive.”
“At this stage of the competition, you have to win games and then you can win trophies. It has to be now, in this period.”
Southampton Team News:
There could, quite possibly, be three notable absentees from the Southampton side for this fixture, the influential Adam Lallana, the teenage defender Luke Shaw and the defender Jos Hooiveld, are all struggling for fitness. But there could be a debut for their latest acquisition Vegard Forren.
Player to watch: Rickie Lambert
Southampton`s top scorer recently signed a new contract at St Marys and we`re all perfectly aware of the danger he presents.
Chelsea Team News:
Rafa Benitez takes his squad to the south-coast mindful of a very hectic fixture list that will see us play four times in eight days.
The only player definitely out is young Oriol Romeu, however there are doubts about Gary Cahill and Ramires, both of whom couldn`t fulfil international commitments.
With qualification for the Champions League, next season, a priority, we expect Rafa to field his strongest eleven and worry about Monday lunchtime, against Manchester United, once the final whistle goes on Saturday.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard
The young Belgian has rediscovered his early season form whilst also marrying it with a goal streak. Could Eden be our match-winner?
Match Facts & Stats
The last time we travelled to St Marys, for an FA Cup tie, we emerged 5-1 winners. Since then though, we`ve played them at Stamford Bridge whereby the Saints came from 2-0 down to snatch a very creditable 2-2 draw.
In the last seven meetings between the sides Chelsea are unbeaten, boasting four wins and three draws.
If you are looking for when Southampton last beat us on their own turf, it was back in 2000when we lost in stoppage time.
Our officials for this encounter are:-
Referee – M. Atkinson
Assistant – R. West
Assistant – H. Lennard
Fourth Official – G. Ward
Southampton have carved out some decent results, at home, particularly a recent demolition of Liverpool. However, they may be wary of the fact that despite taking the lead against us in the FA Cup, they were eventually crushed 5-1. But we`re not expecting a similar result this time, instead we reckon we may have to come from behind again but the class our midfield has will see us win 3-1.
As the fixtures continue to come thick and fast, we follow the trip to St Marys with a visit from Manchester United on Monday, as we continue our defence of the FA Cup in a quarter-final replay.