Chelsea – Southampton (Premier League)
Sunday, at Stanford Bridge, Chelsea faces Southampton and Mourinho will not tolerate any more fumbles from his men. Pochettino will hope his team to bounce back from last weekend’s loss against Arsenal. A victory of the Saints would put them above their hosts in the Premier League table.
José Mourinhos’s team is now 3rd in the Premier League with 24 points, four behind Arsenal that can turn seven if the leaders triumph and the Blues fail this weekend. On Wednesday they travelled to Basel and fell for the second time (1-0), with a pale and uninspiring exhibit. The Portuguese blame it on fatigue. With a pinch of boredom maybe, but that’s just me. Chelsea‘s unsettling performances this season can not make oblivious of the fact that they are still title contenders, already qualified for the Champions League last 16 and will play the Capital One Cup quarter-finals. They respond well when stakes are high, it’s when they unwind that trouble begins. In theory after Southampton the Blues will have three consecutive opportunities to gather points. And then again Sunderland, Stoke City and Crystal Palace can become a great challenge to Chelsea’s stamina and motivation.
Mourinho promised a change XI, a rotation if you will of those “fatigued” players. In the Champions after match the voices against him raised crying for Lukaku and Juan Mata. Was it a mistake to let the Belgium leave? Maybe, but he is gone and the Spaniard is still at Stanford Bridge. Will the dismaying show at Basel, entirely devoted of creativity, make Mourinho give Mata a starting chance? Eto’o picked up a muscular injury and should be replaced by Fernando Torres. Ashley Cole will be back, David Luiz (knee) is not fit yet. Van Ginkel remains a long-term casualty.
Probable lineup: Cech – Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole – Ramires, Obi Mikel – William, Mata, Shurrle – Torres.
This is by far the best start of the Saints in the Premier League. They are 5th right now, with 22 points, just 2 behind their opposition for this Sunday. Last season, at this time, they were 19th with 8. Some argue that they had the calendar on their favour. Even so whenever top squads came their way they stood their ground. Liverpool was beaten at Anfield and United draw at Old Trafford. But now, in the next fours and a half weeks the Southampton will face Chelsea, both away and at home, Villa, City, Newcastle, Tottenham, Cardiff and Everton. The stern test will either burst their bubble or prove their rightful position at the top of the table. Their strength, and the thing that is making the difference this season, has been at the back. Southampton has the best defence of the League, with 7 goals conceded. Will be interesting to see Chelsea’s reaction to the double-deck bus. And let’s not forget about english partnership up front. Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana will take every opportunity to caught Roy Hodgson’s eye.
Dejan Lovren was out of the Arsenal match due to illness but is reported in contention for this fixture. Luke Shaw also recovered from a knock and should start. Pochettino won’t be able to count with Jack Cork (ankle) and Guilherme do Prado (knee). Goalkeeper Kevin Davies is in doubt.
Probable lineup: Boruc – Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw – Schneiderlin, Wanyama – Ward-Prowse, Lallana, Rodriguez – Lambert.
Last season the corresponding meeting resulted in a 2-2 equalizer, Hazard and Demba Ba scored for the visitors, Rickie Lambert and Puncheon for the home team. Sunday, at Stanford Bridge the two sides will try hard to shake the bad fluids of their last defeat.