Winning the Premier League is now the sole focus for Chelsea, who will want to hit back from their ignominious European exit by seeing off the challenge of Southampton.
The English title favourites have been roundly criticised since the away goals defeat to Paris St. Germain for both the standard of performance and the behaviour of the players, while manager Jose Mourinho has attributed the loss to a failure to handle the pressure, and the expectation to beat 10 men.
But a league and cup double will still amount to a fine season, so it will be intriguing to see how the Blues respond here, and they will have been buoyed by Manchester City’s defeat. They certainly could handle the pressure in their last domestic match at West Ham United, where an Eden Hazard header allowed them to soak up second half pressure in determined fashion.
The resurgences of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham as well as the unconvincing consistency of Manchester United has seen the Saints slip to seventh place due to a slight dip in form, which was halted last time out with a narrow victory from an uneventful game against Crystal Palace.
It was an important win, particularly as they had gone several hours without a home goal prior to that clash. They will still believe they are in with a shout of making the Champions League, and the recent return of Morgan Schneiderlin gives them a timely boost. The Frenchman’s battle with Nemanja Matic promises to be a fascinating one.
Chelsea are without John Obi Mikel through injury, while Juan Cuadrado and Willian will both be hoping to earn recalls to the starting line-up.
The away side are still without strikers Emmanuel Mayuka and Jay Rodriguez, but Toby Alderweireld is in line for a return after two months out.
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