U21 PREVIEW: Chelsea vs Southampton

By SFC Media time Mon 02 Feb B Team

Martin Hunter’s side face one of their toughest tests of the season so far on Monday night when they travel to Stamford Bridge to take on third-placed Chelsea.

The 2-0 victory over West Ham United at Staplewood seven days ago – sealed by goals from Dom Gape and Ryan Seager – was Saints’ second-string’s ninth game without defeat in all competitions.

And, after picking up another clean sheet against the Upton Park club – their fifth in their last nine games – Hunter is satisfied with the direction his team are heading in as they sit atop the Barclays Under-21 Premier League table.

“Long may that continue,” Hunter told Southampton’s official YouTube channel. “We’re happy in the way things are going. It’s going to be a very interesting game on Monday in a fantastic stadium against a very technical team. 

“They’ve got some very good players – I’ve actually just been looking at some footage of them – so we’re expecting a test of physique and tactical nous, really.” 

One of the players who lined up against the Hammers last Monday, Jake Sinclair, reckons that his teammates can be more than a match for Chelsea as they bid to extend their unbeaten streak into double figures.

“It should be a good game, and hopefully we can go to Stamford Bridge and get the three points,” he said.

“It’s going to be very hard – Chelsea are a very good team – but I believe in our team, I think we’ve got some good players and hopefully we get the three points.

“Everyone’s just buzzing around at the moment. We work hard every day in training, and it’s proving to work on the pitch.”

The 20-year-old forward has just returned from a loan spell with Hibernian up in Scotland and, despite the limited playing time on offer at Easter Road, believes he has returned to the south coast as a more rounded player.

“It was a good experience, some parts of it. Obviously I didn’t play as much as I would have liked, but it was learning curve. I’m glad to be back, back in Southampton and training, and hopefully I can push on,” he said.

“It’s different to the 21s. It’s a must-win every game, because Hibs are a big club in Scotland and they shouldn’t be in that league, so they’re just fighting for points and it’s really different.

“I think I’ve come back as a more mature young player, but I think that I’ve still got a lot to learn, and hopefully I can continue doing that under Martin.”

Chelsea, who have a game in hand, currently sit just three points behind Southampton in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League and, much like Jose Mourinho’s champions elect, boast a hugely impressive home record and are unbeaten on their own patch so far this season.

As they prepare to come up against the likes of England’s Youth Player of the Year Dominic Solanke and Belgian Under-21 international Charly Musonda, Hunter knows it will be a big ask for his players to come away from Stamford Bridge with a result, but hopes that his players with thrive under the floodlights in west London.

“I think all the games are tough – we’ve said that on numerous occasions – but this brings a different environment, it’s at Stamford Bridge, I think there’ll be a crowd there, so it always has an edge to it and it’s an evening game, so the players are really looking forward to that,” said Saints’ Technical Director.

“You’re only as good as your next result, so we’ll have to wait and see on that. We’ve got nine league games left now. If you look at the league, right the way down to about tenth position, the points totals – there’s not a great deal of difference, so we’ll certainly not be getting complacent.”

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