Chelsea will do everything to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the table with victory when they host Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (13:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea come into the match on the back of their highly disappointing Champions League exit at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
A 0-0 draw would have been sufficient for Jose Mourinho’s side and they spent much of the evening playing as if that was the result they were aiming for, even after PSG were reduced to 10 men on the half-hour mark. Gary Cahill eventually put them ahead from a corner, only for ex-Chelsea defender David Luiz to equalise minutes later to force extra time.
Eden Hazard reestablished Chelsea’s lead from the penalty spot, only for Thiago Silva to level the scores once more and, more importantly, give PSG the vital away-goal advantage that saw their through to the last eight at Chelsea’s expense. The performance provided further evidence of the slight decline the Blues have suffered since the turn of the year. Nevertheless they are at the top of the Premier League table, with 63 points from 19 wins, six draws and two defeats.
While they still have a comfortable lead and a game in hand in the title race, a record of eight wins, five draws and two defeats in their 15 matches in all competitions in 2015 compares unfavourably to their results earlier in the campaign. In recent weeks, particularly, they have lost some attacking spark, with Hazard the only standout performer.
Mourinho will not be able to play the injured Jon Obi Mikel (knee) for this game but looks to have no further injury concerns.
Southampton travel to London well-rested following a near two-week break in the wake of their home victory over Crystal Palace at the start of the month. They lie seventh in the Premier League table, with 49 points from 15 wins, four draws and nine defeats.
Saints had much the better of the first half against Palace but were unable to create a regular stream of chances. The away side came out of their shell after the break and did have a couple of presentable opportunities, but Saints eventually took the victory courtesy of Sadio Mane’s late strike. It was a win that served to reignite their faltering top-four challenge.
Ronald Koeman’s (pictured) side had lost three of their five fixtures prior to that match and desperately needed the three points to prevent the current four-point gap to Manchester United in fourth increasing further. After a good run of form between mid-December and mid-January, a lack of goals has hampered them over the last couple of months.
Indeed, Saints have scored just twice in their last six league matches. Graziano Pelle notched eight goals before Christmas but is yet to find the back of the net in 2015, while Mane (six goals) is the only other player in the squad to have scored more than three times this season. Thankfully, Saints continue to have the best defensive record in the division.
Koeman will be without the injured Emmanuel Mayuka (groin) and Jay Rodriguez (knee) but otherwise looks to have a full squad to pick from.
Chelsea v Southampton Betting Tips
These sides drew 1-1 when they met at St Mary’s earlier this season, with Hazard equalising Mane’s opener. Chelsea won both of last season’s fixtures: 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and 3-0 on the South Coast. Chelsea have won three and drawn two of the last five meetings in London, with Southampton’s last victory at Stamford Bridge coming back in 2002.
Chelsea have not been firing on all cylinders in recent times but have nevertheless secured some silverware, in form of the Capital One Cup, and picked up enough points to maintain a healthy lead at the top of the table. They will surely be keen to at least make partial amends for Wednesday with a strong performance in front of their own supporters.
Saints defended stoutly in the second half of the match between these sides at St Mary’s earlier this season and will be relatively confident of keeping at bay a Chelsea attack that has been much less threatening in open play since the turn of the year. Their own problems in front of goal are likely to preclude them from taking the win, but a draw is a realistic aim.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 10/3 with Betfred.
- We expect this to be a tight and low-scoring encounter between the two teams with the best defensive records in the Premier League. Nine of Southampton’s and seven of Chelsea’s last 10 league matches have seen two or fewer goals, and Sunday’s match is likely to go the same way. Back under 2.5 goals @ evens with Ladbrokes or SkyBet.