Chelsea have put themselves in a good position in the table after a run of bad form. They will be travelling to face a dangerous Southampton side on Sunday and it will be a difficult test for Antonio Conte’s side. It is important that they don’t suffer from over-confidence after their convincing victory over Manchester United last weekend. This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting fixtures of gameweek ten and we will be able to learn a lot about both sides.
The home side are coming into the match with a five-match unbeaten run in the league and they will confident of extending that against their more illustrious opposition. They managed to reach the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup during the week after a superb goal from record signing Sofiane Boufal. The Saints have lacked creativity so far this season and the former Lille player will add dynamism to their attack. There were concerns about Claude Puel’s ability to continue the good work done by Ronald Koeman, but Southampton have been excellent in recent weeks and another good campaign looks to be on the cards.
Antonio Conte has guided Chelsea to the top four and they will be confident of staying there until the end of the season. The Italian has changed the formation to a 3-4-3 and they are now performing much better on the pitch. Last weekend, they tore Manchester United apart and it is important that they don’t lose that momentum. This is a tricky test for Conte as Southampton are one of the better sides in the division and have the players to cause serious problems. There is an outside chance that the Blues could move to the top of the table with a win on the South Coast which will confirm them as genuine title contenders.
In the two meetings between the sides last season, there was a win for either side. Chelsea won the corresponding fixture thanks to goals from Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic. Shane Long scored the goal for the hosts. Both sides have changed a lot since that match and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top this Sunday.
Southampton have allowed their opponents just 19 shots on target in the Premier League this season, which is the lowest amount of any side.
Eden Hazard has now already equalled his Premier League goal tally from last season showing that he is now getting back to his best form.
There were concerns about Southampton’s midfield after they agreed to sell Victor Wanyama to Tottenham Hotspur this summer. However, they had a ready made replacement in their squad and they were right in giving him the opportunity to impress. Oriol Romeu is finally establishing himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the league after years as a fringe player at both Chelsea and Southampton. He will be keen to give another impressive display this weekend against his former club. It is important that he is on top form on Sunday as Chelsea have an excellent midfield and will look to dominate in that area. This season, Romeu has averaged 3 tackles and 2.8 interceptions, showing that he is one of the best at retrieving the ball in the league. He plays in a position that is often overlooked, but he has been receiving lots of praise on the South Coast. If he plays well, his side will have a great chance of extending their recent good run of form.
The Belgian looks reformed under Antonio Conte and is now once again one of the best players in the division. His ability to create moments of magic out of nothing marks him as a very special player and one that can make the difference in matches like these. It is crucial that he has a good game as Southampton have one of the best defences in the league and it could take a moment of magic to take the three points. This season, Hazard has looked a lot better in the final third and he already has four goals to his name. However, there is room for improvement, especially in terms of creativity. He has yet to make an assist this season and Conte will want that to be put right sooner rather than later. Hazard needs to put in match-winning performances on a more consistent basis if he wants to be considered as one of the best players in the world. The winger has often been talked about in the same breath as some of the finest in the game, it is now up to him to show that he deserves those claims.
Southampton still have a number of concerns ahead of Sunday’s match against Chelsea. Cedric, Ryan Bertrand and Matthew Targett are all doubts. Shane Long, Jake Hesketh and Jay Rodriguez are likely to miss out, while Jeremy Pied won’t feature until March.
Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic should both be involved this weekend after recovering from thigh injuries. Marco van Ginkel and John Obi Mikel are doubts for the trip to St Marys.
This is an extremely difficult match to call as both sides are in good form and putting in good performances on a weekly basis. They are both well coached defensively and I don’t expect there to be many goals at St Mary’s on Sunday. However, I do think Chelsea will have enough to take the three points. The change in formation has provided them with a new lease of life and their attacking strength should be too much for Southampton. Although I’m predicting a loss for Southampton, they won’t go down easily and they should be in for another good season.