FA Cup Semi-Final: Chelsea vs Southampton Preview & Betting Tips

Willian: Chelsea vs Southampton PreviewChelsea should be fancied to progress to their second consecutive FA Cup final when they take on Southampton in their semi-final at Wembley on Sunday (3pm live on BT Sport).

Chelsea lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final after defeating Tottenham Hotspur in the final four and generally have a strong recent record in the FA Cup. They have won the competition three times in the last 10 years and reached the semi-final a further three times.

This has not been a particularly successful campaign for the Blues. They are highly likely to miss out on Champions League football next season after a limp defence of their Premier League title that will probably end in a fifth-place finish, coach Antonio Conte looks set to leave, and the FA Cup represents their sole remaining route to silverware.

Conte underscored the seriousness with which he is approaching the competition by leaving Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Willian fresh for the semi-final by omitting them from his  starting XI for Thursday’s 2-1 win away to Burnley. In their absence, an own goal and a second-half strike from Victor Moses saw Chelsea to victory and maintained their outside hopes of catching Tottenham in fourth.

Chelsea do clearly have some weak points, but there is still enough quality throughout the squad to make them difficult opponents. Hazard and Willian have been the club’s standout attacking performers this season, both got on the scoresheet in last season’s semi-final victory over Tottenham and will be keen to again make decisive contributions on Sunday against a team who aren’t used to making it this far in the FA Cup.

This is the first time Southampton have reached the final four since 2003, when they were losing finalists to Arsenal. Indeed, it is the first time in over 10 years that they’ve gone further than the fifth round. But the circumstances in which it has been achieved are likely to condition their chances of emerging victorious on Sunday.

While an FA Cup final appearance and the opportunity to lift a trophy would provide some welcome respite in an otherwise depressing season, Premier League survival is Southampton’s priority in what remains of the campaign. That much was made clear by the strength of the side Mark Hughes put out for their 0-0 draw away to Leicester on Thursday. While Conte was able to rest a few of his regulars, Hughes utilised his best XI.

The result was a solid performance and a point which nevertheless still leaves them four shy of safety having played a game more than Swansea directly above them. The match between the two sides on the penultimate day of the season could yet turn into a relegation decider. But Saints probably need at least four points from the two matches prior to make it so. Given they then face champions Manchester City on the final day, even that may not be enough.

Hughes was brought in for the final stretch of the campaign after the club finally lost patience with Mauricio Pellegrino following a run of just one win in 17 matches and just five in 30 all season. Results have not appreciably improved. Under Hughes, Southampton have still struggled to find an adequate balance between attack and defence.

That was certainly the case in their 2-3 league defeat at home to Chelsea last weekend. Southampton started well, took the lead through Dusan Tadic and then doubled their lead through Jan Bednarek on the hour mark. They were unable to convincingly defend that advantage once Chelsea replaced the ineffective Alvaro Morata with Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman scored twice, either side of a Hazard strike, to seal a comeback win.

That victory was Chelsea’s fifth consecutive triumph over Southampton. In total, they have won seven, to Southampton’s one, of the last 10 meetings. Saints arguably had a better team than they do now in all of those encounters.

In terms of form, motivation and quality, Chelsea look to have the edge over Southampton and should be expected to record a relatively comfortable victory on Sunday.

Our Preview’s Chelsea vs. Southampton Betting Tips Verdict

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