Chelsea travel to face Southampton at the weekend, as they attempt to strengthen their position in the top four, before the return of Champions League football. Thomas Tuchel has had an immediate impact, as the Blues have taken 13 points from a possible 15 under the German. The mid-season managerial change is already looking like the correct one, as the team have moved into the top four and they are just four points behind Manchester United in second. Meanwhile, Southampton have lost their last six Premier League matches and are dropping like a stone. Based on form, this one looks to be a straightforward away win.
Despite their recent bad form, it hasn’t all been bad for Southampton, as they have qualified for the FA Cup quarter final. They are safe in mid table due to their excellent first half to the campaign and there will be few fears about relegation. At the time of writing, they are ten points clear of Fulham. Even if the Cottagers go on a run of form, the number of teams between Southampton and the bottom three means that they won’t be dragged into it. Ralph Hasenhuttl has a lot of admirers across the continent and there is no pressure on him to show that he can arrest a slide in league form.
It has been an excellent few weeks for Chelsea, as they have climbed into the top four and reached the quarter final of the FA Cup. Few would have been expecting them to make such quick progress in the league, but lots of teams are dropping points and a sustained run of form will carry teams up the table. There is more to come from this group of players under Tuchel and it would be expected that there are improvements as he continues to work with them on the training ground. The return of the Champions League may cause some rotation, but the squad is strong enough to maintain their impressive league form if changes are made.
- Southampton’s run of six successive league defeats is the worst run of form in their history.
- Chelsea have completed 87% of their passes in the Premier League this season. No team has a higher pass completion rate.
The return to goal-scoring in the Premier League was a welcome one for Danny Ings. 12 months ago, he looked to be guaranteed a place in the England squad for Euro 2020, but he will need to have a strong finish to the campaign to ensure his place. He will be aware of that and there does seem to be a hunger to find his stride in red and white. Ings has scored in his last two matches, both against Wolves in two different competitions. His goal last weekend was a great strike and it served as a reminder of his quality in the opposition penalty box. Chelsea haven’t conceded a goal to an opposition player since the appointment of Thomas Tuchel. Despite Southampton’s poor form, they will look to engage Chelsea with a high press and it will be interesting to see if that approach is successful for them. They have nothing to lose and in Ings, they have a player that only needs half a chance to find the back of the net. He will need to be at his best if the home side are to get anything from the game this weekend.
Timo Werner will be delighted to end his poor run of form without a goal, as he got on the score-sheet against Newcastle. There was a nervy wait as VAR checked to see if he was offside, but the look of relief once the goal was given showed how much it meant to the German striker. There are some that believe he will now start to contribute goals on a regular basis and Chelsea need him to, as their current Premier League top-scorer is Tammy Abraham with six. If they are to push on and consolidate their position in the top four, they need a more consistent and reliable goal-scoring option. Werner should be that player, as he showed his clinical side in the Bundesliga, prior to his move to Stamford Bridge. Although he has struggled at times, he has contributed five goals and five assists, which means that he has more goal contributions than any other player in the Chelsea squad. It will be hoped that he now has the confidence to end the season strongly. Southampton will set up in a positive fashion and there will be space for the visitors to exploit on the counter-attack. The pace and movement of Werner could cause problems for Southampton on Saturday.
Southampton have full-back issues again, as Kyle Walker-Peters will be missing through injury. Either Jack Stephens or James Ward-Prowse will deputise in his place. Theo Walcott and Ibrahima Diallo remain on the treatment table.
Tammy Abraham limped off against Newcastle United and he is unlikely to be available for the trip to the South Coast. Olivier Giroud could be in line for a recall. Kai Havertz could be back in the squad after his recent absence.
It is difficult to go against the form book in this fixture. Southampton’s poor run of form won’t continue for much longer, but they are coming up against one of the in-form teams in the division. Chelsea have players that will expose Southampton’s weakness in transition. Werner could do real damage up against a makeshift right-back. This should be a good watch, but an away win looks to be the smart prediction.
Southampton 1-3 Chelsea