Our football pundit previews the FA Cup semi-final matchup between Chelsea and Southampton which kicks off on Sunday 22 April 2018.
Chelsea are strong favourites to see off Southampton on Sunday and reach consecutive FA Cup finals. These sides met in the Premier League last weekend and it seemed like the relegation-threatened Saints were set to claim a vital win as they were 2-0 up with 20 minutes left at home, but substitute Olivier Giroud scored twice and Eden Hazard also netted to complete the comeback victory for Antonio Conte’s men.
It was the Blues’ fifth straight win over the Saints. The two teams last met in the FA Cup in January 2013, with the Blues running out convincing 5-1 winners at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Chelsea vs Southampton | Sunday 22 April | Wembley Stadium (16:00)
To Win (90 mins)
*Please note that this article was written prior to Premier League midweek games from 17-19 April.
After storming to the league title in record-breaking fashion last season, Chelsea have endured a season to forget with the Blues set to miss out on a place in next season’s Champions League.
Conte will be hoping for FA Cup success to provide some much-needed cheer to Chelsea’s faltering season, but the big question is whether the motivation is still there within the squad and the coaching staff.
Conte’s side defeated Leicester City last month to reach the semi-finals. Alvaro Morata gave the Blues the lead at the King Power Stadium before Jamie Vardy’s equaliser took the tie into extra-time, when Pedro headed in a winner. The last three times that Chelsea knocked Leicester out of the FA Cup, they went on to win the competition.
Giroud will be hoping his superb performance against the Saints last weekend will earn him a place in the starting lineup. Southampton wouldn’t want to face the Frenchman again which is exactly why he should be on the team-sheet ahead of Morata.
Southampton reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in 15 years after a 2-0 victory over Wigan in Mark Hughes’ first game in charge – their only win in seven matches at the time of writing. This is their 12th semi-final outing, having won just four of their previous 11.
The Saints threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at home to Chelsea last weekend and although they lost the game, there were some positives for Hughes to take. His side were the better team for the first 70 minutes, displaying the sort of aggression and incision that had been so lacking under Mauricio Pellegrino earlier in the season.
However, the defeat left the Saints in the bottom three of the Premier League with five points off safety, while it was Hughes’ fifth straight loss (four with Stoke) against the Blues as a manager – his sides conceding 18 goals in that run.
Verdict: Chelsea Win & Both Teams to Score (43/20)
Chelsea have already beaten the Saints twice this season, while Mark Hughes has lost his last five meetings as a manager against the Blues. Last weekend produced an exciting five-goal thriller and I’m backing Chelsea to Win & Both Teams to Score at 43/20.