Southampton vs Chelsea | Saturday 27 February | St. Mary's | 18:00
Two clubs experiencing varying degrees of renaissance go head to head this weekend in what promises to be an intriguing match at St Mary’s. Southampton are currently the in-form team in the league, with key players returning from injury at just the right time for Ronald Koeman.
Guus Hiddink remains unbeaten in the league since he took charge of Chelsea, yet a cluster of draws has seen the club linger in a state of limbo in the lower echelons of the table. The entire club’s season seems to hinge precariously on the upcoming fixture against PSG so it will be interesting to see how much gusto is shown by the outgoing champions.
To Win Match (90 Mins)
Southampton 18/10 | Draw 21/10 | Chelsea 21/20
The return of Graziano Pelle and- in particular- Frazer Forster, has come at just the right time for a club that looked in freefall around Christmas time. Forster has kept six consecutive clean sheets, which no doubt also has something to so with the central defensive partnership. Sean Davis has stepped up to the plate in recent weeks and proved a driving force in midfield.
He could have the ascendancy over the likes of Fabregas if Chelsea aren’t fully committed to their recovery running. Ward-Prowse is a dead-ball specialist with the ability to engage Southampton’s imposing aerial threats.
Dusan Tadic may come into the side to add some creativity going forward. Tadic seems to be a home ground choice who thrives when the Saints have a constant stream of possession. Mane has been excellent since a turbulent transfer window almost saw the talented player leave. The athleticism of Wanyama, Mane and Davis will be key for the Saints. Graziano Pelle will be the target man while Charlie Austin waits in the wings for his opportunity.
Guus Hiddink will be pleased with the way that his experienced side dispatched Pellegrini’s legion of younglings. They were ruthlessly efficient when ruthless efficiency was required. Now he will be looking to keep the chins up and build some confidence for the upcoming Cup fixtures.
Mikel may be giving a rest this weekend, allowing Matic a chance to try and re-establish himself as an essential component of the Chelsea machine. Hazard may also be on the bench as Oscar is giving a chance to prove his worth in the side.
The performances of Pedro have reminded one of the dynamic winger that was so integral to Barcelona’s success over the last few years. Willian has been the one consistent element in the Chelsea side this season, running after lost causes and propelling the side forward at every giving occasion. The absence of Kurt Zouma and John Terry will test the experimental pairing of Rahman and Cahill.
I personally would play Rahman at left-back in his natural position, with Ivanovic playing central and Azpilicueta at right-back. I just worry about the level of commitment for a side with relatively little to play for in the league. I almost wonder if they would even welcome participation in the Europa League.
Verdict: Southampton on the Double Chance at 5/10
I just think that Southampton’s current resurgence will give them some momentum. I am hedging my bets with the Double Chance, because Chelsea’s quality could always offset the disparity in motivation.
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