Chelsea showed impressive fight at the weekend, as they bounced back from a poor run to beat rivals Tottenham. The win was made all the more impressive as it was away from home. The Blues now have a great chance to consolidate their position in the top four with a home fixture against relegation-threatened Southampton. Frank Lampard will want to improve his team’s record at Stamford Bridge and Boxing Day offers a good opportunity to do that.
The ambition will be to finish in the top four, which would represent a good season for Lampard in his debut season as Chelsea boss. The expectations were low at the beginning of the season, with many in the media stating that a top six finish would be a success. However, the rookie manager has managed to introduce a number of young players into the first team and the quality has remained at a high level. There will now be an opportunity to strengthen in January and it will be interesting to see if the club decide to do any business.
For Southampton, they will be pleased to have moved out of the relegation zone before Christmas Day. It was looking very worrying for them following the convincing 9-0 defeat against Leicester. Since then, they have managed to improve and pick up a few key results. The players are clearly playing for Ralph Hasenhuttl and that has shown that the club have been correct to stick with their popular head coach. Danny Ings remains the key player for the Saints, with his incredible goal scoring record a big reason for not being cut adrift. This fixture is one that they can approach with freedom, as they won’t be expected to win. That said, they have the quality to cause problems for the home side.
Chelsea kept their first away clean sheet of the season against Tottenham. Lampard will be hoping that their defensive record improves over the coming months.
Southampton’s last 16 Premier League goals have been scored by Englishmen. This is the longest run in the competition since QPR between March 1996 and September 2011 (17 goals).
There will be a lot of rotation over the next three matches, as Lampard has admitted that he will give his squad players a chance. Mason Mount is unlikely to play all three of the matches over Christmas, but his youth should mean that he plays a significant role. Against Tottenham, his energy was obvious as he ran non-stop and was one of the better performers on the day. During the game, he attempted two shots, completed two dribbles and made one key pass. His qualities were there for all to see and his interplay in attack was impressive. At times, Mount has been unfairly criticised by some, but he has the support of the coaching staff and he has become one of the first names on the team sheet. Brighton have a lot of energy in their team and Chelsea will need to match that. It’s one of the main reasons why Mount is likely to be a starter for this one. Tammy Abraham has struggled for goals since his return from injury. He needs help and Mount could provide it.
Southampton have Danny Ings to thank this season, as they haven’t been cut adrift at the bottom of the league table. In a relegation fight, it is invaluable to have a striker that scores consistently and Saints have the best in the bottom half. It was always going to be a rebuild for the striker following his exit from Liverpool and he is now on the verge of earning an England recall. It is becoming more and more difficult for Gareth Southgate to ignore him. The 27-year-old has scored seven in his last seven, which has taken his total to 11 for the campaign. If he maintains his current scoring rate, he will surpass 20 league goals, which would represent a huge achievement. Chelsea have weaknesses at the back, despite their recent clean sheet against Tottenham and Southampton will be confident of scoring at least once. If they are to do that, Ings is likely to be the man to do it.
Mateo Kovacic will be suspended, which should mean that Jorginho is recalled to the starting eleven. Cesar Azpilicueta is a doubt and Reece James will be on standby. Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains a long term absentee.
Moussa Djenepo and Kevin Danso are both doubts for the trip to Stamford Bridge. Yan Valery will be unavailable for the visitors.
Chelsea need to start winning matches at home if they are to secure a top four finish. Southampton are a team that carry a threat, especially with Danny Ings on the pitch. However, the home side should have the quality to win on Boxing Day to back up their recent success over Tottenham.
Chelsea 2-1 Southampton