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Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Chelsea

Dec 31, 2013, 2:35 PM EDT

Saints' talented crop of youngsters are impressing at St. Mary's Saints' talented crop of youngsters are impressing at St. Mary's
  • The Saints have only won one of their last nine Premier League games against Chelsea (D3 L5), but that was in this fixture last season.
  • 37% of the goals Chelsea have conceded this season have come from set-pieces, the highest proportion in the Premier League (excl. penalties).
  • No Chelsea striker has scored a Premier League away goal since December 2012.

After losing at Southampton last year it’s going to be ‘game on!’ when Chelsea visit St. Mary’s on Wednesday (10:00am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra).

Chelsea come into the game unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches since losing 2-3 to Stoke City on December 7th. After disposing of Crystal Palace 2-1 and strategically drawing 0-0 with Arsenal at the Emirates, Jose Mourinho’s side beat Swansea 1-0 and Liverpool 2-1 in a thriller.

Despite the strong form and sitting 3rd in the table just two points adrift of leaders Arsenal, Chelsea have struggled to score goals of late with Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and (to an extent) Demba Ba being blamed. Many believe the drought will prompt Mourinho to go shopping in the January’s transfer market meaning the game at Southampton represents a fantastic opportunity for the current trio to prove their worth.

Despite being beaten by Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last term, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will be boosted by their 2-1 victory over the Blues last March at St. Mary’s. That match saw goals by Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez, who has been in sensational form scoring five goals in his last seven matches.

Over the last two months the injury bug has taken a chunk out of Southampton, who were the toast of the league in a Top 4 spot at the start of the season. But in their last eight league contests, the Saints have won only once, a 3-0 win at Cardiff City. They’ll be boosted by the return of midfield stalwart Morgan Schneiderlin but will need to cope with a number of notable absences, including Artur Boruc (hand), Victor Wanyama (fractured leg) and Guly do Prado (knee). Dani Osvaldo is also a question mark due to illness.

For Chelsea, Ramires is set to return after suspension but Frank Lampard (muscular injury), Branislav Ivanovic (knee) and Marco van Ginkel (knee) are all out, as is David Luiz through yellow card accumulation.

What They’re Saying

Chelsea defender John Terry: “It’s going to be tough because they’re very good at home and it proved a difficult game here (Stamford Bridge) when they scored pretty early. They are a good footballing side, very much like Liverpool, who try and play out from the back so we’re expecting a tough game.”

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: “It’s clear that Chelsea are a top side, a great team. They have great, talented players. We learned a lot from that game (at Chelsea). It was a very competitive game and it’s going to be another competitive game against them this time around. . . . We know them well and we’re more than aware that we’re going to be facing a very tough team.”

Prediction

The return of Schneiderlin will be huge for the Saints and, looking at the key absentees for Chelsea, I think this could be the upset of the day. Southampton wins by a goal.

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