Get ready for Sunday’s visit of Chelsea to St Mary’s with our in-depth Premier League match preview…
Southampton vs Chelsea
Sunday 7th October, 2.15pm BST
St Mary’s Stadium
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Richard West
Fourth official: Roger East
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Danny Ings’s fourth goal of the season and penalty heroics from Angus Gunn and Cédric sealed Saints’ place in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup at Everton on Tuesday night and restored a degree of positivity ahead of this weekend’s visit of Chelsea.
To follow up with the same result at St Mary’s would be the perfect tonic ahead of the impending international break and open up some daylight from the bottom three.
Mark Hughes’s men played the Blues off the park for 70 of the 90 minutes in April of last season only to fall away late on and the same intensity for large proportions of that game will be needed once more.
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri could become the sixth manager to remain unbeaten in his first eight Premier League matches and the Italian will look to continue a strong Blues record in this fixture in recent years.
The West London club have lost just once in all competitions at St Mary’s in 11 matches, winning all of the last three; with Liverpool and Manchester City facing off later on Sunday, another away win would do a world of good for Chelsea’s early title aspirations.
Alvaro Morata’s strike against Hungarian side Vidi ensured that they maintained their 100 per cent record in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.
Southampton: Mark Hughes confirmed that the only selection issue he’ll face this weekend stems from the impressive performances of the six changes to Saints’ midweek team against Everton in his pre-match press conference.
The likes of Shane Long and Moi Elyounoussi have trained as normal with the squad this week with Ryan Bertrand and Alex McCarthy overcoming minor issues to put themselves back in contention.
Chelsea: Chelsea could make up to eight changes to their starting XI as Maurizio Sarri recalls his first-choice line-up to face Southampton at St Mary’s.
The Blues manager rotated his squad for the Europa League clash against Vidi on Thursday, with an under-strength side edging to victory at Stamford Bridge.
Among those likely to return are Olivier Giroud – the scorer of five goals in his last four matches against Saints – and Eden Hazard who was introduced as a late substitute two days ago.
Everton (a) D 1-1 (Won 3-4 on penalties) (Ings) Carabao Cup
Wolves (a) L 0-2
Liverpool (a) L 0-3
Brighton (h) D 2-2 (Højbjerg, Ings)
Crystal Palace (a) W 2-0 (Ings, Højbjerg)
Vidi (h) W 1-0 (Morata) UEFA Europa League
Liverpool (h) D 1-1 (Hazard)
Liverpool (a) W 2-1 (Emerson, Hazard)
West Ham (a) D 0-0
PAOK (a) W 1-0 (Willian) UEFA Europa League
Mark Hughes: We’re looking forward to it. Chelsea are an outstanding side and have got good talent collectively and individually so we’ll have to find a way of dealing with that.
We got the rewards for our efforts on Tuesday which we didn’t at Wolves despite playing a big part in both games. We want to go into the international break with a positive result.
Maurizio Sarri: "We created a lot of goalscoring opportunities on (Thursday night), but we conceded two or three opportunities to the opponents, and we have to do better in the defensive phase, in the positions under the line of the ball to avoid counter-attacks.
"At the moment in the striker position we have Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud. We have to play every three days for a long time I think, I hope, so they are both very important for our season."
Chelsea’s N’Golo Kane, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic have dominated most opponents this season, but Saints’ Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will relish the challenge of competing against them this weekend.
The Dane has produced a series of first-rate performances across the past few matches, scoring excellent goals against Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion, and having the measure of Wolves’ Joao Mouthinho and Ruben Neves despite finishing on the losing side.
While gaining the upper hand over a star-studded Blues midfield will represent a tougher challenge, Hojbjerg can take confidence from the fact he is becoming a key part of Mark Hughes’s plans.
Eden Hazard has begun the season in blistering form and arguably has reached a level performance unrivalled since his arrival at Chelsea in 2012.
With six goals to his name already – one of which a stunning winner against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup – the Belgian is thriving under the tutelage of Italian coach Sarri who has built his side’s attack around the forward and given him license to create and score at will.
Olivier Giroud is likely to partner Hazard in attack at St Mary’s; the Frenchman’s introduction from the bench was the catalyst to the Blues coming back from two goals down to win 3-2 on the south coast in April. Keeping the pair quiet won’t be easy but will surely yield a positive result should it be done.
Previous five meetings:
Apr 2018: Chelsea 2-0 Saints
Apr 2018: Saints 2-3 Chelsea
Dec 2017: Chelsea 1-0 Saints
Apr 2017: Chelsea 4-2 Saints
Oct 2016: Saints 0-2 Chelsea
DID YOU KNOW?
The previous five managers to have remained unbeaten for their first eight PL matches were Frank Clark (Nottingham Forest), John Lyall (Ipswich Town), Peter Taylor (Ipswich Town), Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) and Luiz Felipe Scolari (Chelsea).
NOT AT THE GAME?
Not with at St Mary’s? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
Our interactive match centre at southamptonfc.com will have all the build-up, in-game updates and live commentary, while we’ll also be keeping you bang up-to-date and bringing you behind-the-scenes access on our various social channels, so make sure you’re following us…