After their season of torment extended to the Champions League in midweek, Chelsea will be determined to claim what will at least be a third successive home victory in all competitions when they host Southampton.
The performance away to FC Porto on Tuesday was an acceptable one, but the deficiencies which have surfaced in the Blues defence this season were in full view again as only a number of fine saves from Asmir Begovic kept the score down. Nevertheless, it is a worrying time for the club and for Jose Mourinho, who in his managerial career has rarely experienced a run like this and has not in the past been used to seeing so many of his star players punch so drastically below their weight.
For all of his recent indiscretions, Diego Costa looked very sharp at the Estadio do Dragao and will be missed here as he serves the final match of his domestic suspension, so the onus will be on Eden Hazard to raise his game in what looks to be a potentially tricky encounter. A good start will be ideal, but they must beware of set-pieces, having conceded so many goals of late from dead-ball situations; a potential consequence of leaving a leader such as John Terry on the bench.
Southampton were one of only two teams that did not taste defeat home or away against Chelsea last season, so will carry no fear as they head to Stamford Bridge looking for their first league triumph on the road this term. They come into it off the back of their two best results so far, scoring six at Milton Keynes Dons in the Capital One Cup and then sweeping aside Swansea City. Sadio Mane scored in both, and his pace and technique provides a huge test for a home backline that is under heavy scrutiny.
Even after seeing his team win with such comfort, manager Ronald Koeman was not altogether delighted with the way they played, so there is plenty of gears for the Saints to reach. If they can recapture the solidity they had last season, they are very capable of getting a positive result here, a feeling that will only increase should they get off to a good start and quieten the crowd.
Costa is the only absentee for Chelsea, but Mourinho could make changes as he continues to search for a winning formula.
Southampton could give a long-awaited Premier League debut to fit-again midfielder Jordy Clasie, but he is likely to start on the bench.
Played for both – Graeme Le Saux: The left-back’s first spell with Chelsea ended in 1993 after four years, but he return in 1997 and helped establish them as Champions League contenders in scoring four goals in 140 league appearances. He finished his career at Southampton, where he scored once in 44 Premier League outings before they were relegated in 2005.