Sunday 28th December – 14:05 – St.Mary’s Stadium
Southampton welcome leaders Chelsea to St Mary’s on Sunday with both sides enjoying positive results in recent weeks in the Premier League. The Saints have won their last two games convincingly and sit fourth in the table, while Chelsea have won five on the trot in all competitions after their first defeat of the season at Newcastle earlier this month Jose Mourinho’s side have conceded just two goals in those five games but come up against a Saints defence that has kept six clean sheets in the last nine Premier League matches at St Mary’s – these are the two sternest defences in the division. Both sides face another tough game on New Years’ Day, as Southampton host Arsenal and Chelsea visit Tottenham, but neither will want to end 2014 with a defeat. The Blues are in a confident mood at present, with midfielder Nemanja Matic claiming they can win the quadruple. Will this provide a base for a defeat at St. Mary’s where Southampton have lost just twice in 2014-15?
The Key Battle: Graziano Pelle vs John Terry
Saints striker Graziano Pelle may not be in as hot goalscoring from as he was at the start of the season, but the Italian remains a key player for the hosts, especially at St. Mary’s.
Seven of his eight Premier League goals have been scored at home and he has not scored in a top-flight away match since August.
Except for Shane Long, Southampton have no other real first team quality striker who is fit, so it’s unlikely Pelle will be dropped if Ronald Koeman rotates his squad.
John Terry was involved in my key battle against West Ham on Boxing Day, and he came out on top against Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia, giving me no reason to not include him in this edition of the Big Match Preview as well.
The former England international got his second goal in two games against the Hammers, and is only behind David Unsworth in the list of Premier League goals scored by defenders.
But primarily Terry’s job is to keep the goals out, and he’s doing that too, winning 68% of tackles and 75% of aerial duels this season. He’s got no cards to his name either. The Blues skipper is certainly leading by example.
- Left-back Ryan Bertrand is on loan from Chelsea, so is ineligible to play, meaning academy prospect Matt Targett is in line to start.
- However, Ronald Koeman can call upon captain Jose Fonte, who is likely to return whether the manager keeps faith with the 3-5-2 formation or not.
- Shane Long, Dusan Tadic and Victor Wanyama could come in after starting from the bench in the Boxing Day win at Crystal Palace, but Jay Rodriguez (cruciate ligament), Sam Gallagher (knee) and Jack Cork (knock) remain out.
- Jose Mourinho has no fresh injury concerns after Eden Hazard recovered in time to face West Ham on boxing day.
- He is likely to rotate the squad though for the Blues’ second game in three days, ahead of two more fixtures on the 1st and 4th of January.
- Didier Drogba, Filipe Luis, Andre Schurrle and John Obi Mikel could feature if this is the tactic the Portuguese boss goes for.
Southampton wins = 23 / Chelsea wins = 37 / Draws = 22
Last Meeting: Southampton 0-3 Chelsea (1st January 2014)
Almost exactly a year ago, Chelsea’s 2013-14 Premier League title challenge began to gather momentum ominously as they cruised to victory at St.Mary’s. Southampton, kept Chelsea at bay until manager Jose Mourinho introduced Brazilian duo Oscar and Willian early in the second half to give his side an extra cutting edge. And the switch worked perfectly as they made crucial contributions to give Chelsea 10 points out of 12 over the festive period, in what was eventually a comfortable win. Fernando Torres, a threat throughout, headed Chelsea in front on the hour after Oscar had struck the post. Oscar then set up a superb second for Willian 11 minutes later before racing clear to put the finishing touches to a display that combined quality and efficiency.
Stat of the Match
Southampton have won all 10 Premier League games in which they have taken the lead, and are the only team yet to drop points from a winning position.
Where can I watch it?
The game is being shown live on Sky Sports 1, with coverage beginning at 1:55pm, and the match kicking-off ten minutes later. The highlights will then be shown on Match of the Day that evening, which is on at 10:25pm on BBC One.
My Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Chelsea
These are the two strongest defences in the league, so don’t expect loads of goals. But both teams have in form attacks as well, so it’s set up to be a close game. I think Graziano Pelle will score for the hosts, and Eden Hazard for the visitors, two players who are likely to stay in starting 11’s which Koeman and Mourinho will surely rotate.