Chelsea will be looking to bounce back from defeat to rivals West Ham as they welcome an inconsistent Southampton side to Stamford Bridge. The Blues are 14 points behind Manchester City at the top of the league in what looks to be a mountain to climb to retain their Premier League title but their midweek win over Huddersfield will give Antonio Conte cause for optimism.
The Italian has bemoaned his team’s hectic schedule in recent weeks and rotation looks inevitable with the notoriously difficult festive period on the horizon.
The absence of Alvaro Morata encouraged Conte to play a 3-4-3 formation against Huddersfield and it remains to be seen if Antonio Conte may plump the same structure in an attempt to break Southampton down. Patient build-up was the order of the day against the Terriers and it could be much of the same here, with most of Chelsea’s play coming through the congested middle of the pitch. Conte is famed for deploying two holding midfielders but he has been asking for a more offensive approach from his central men – depicted by Tiemoue Bakayoko’s goal against Huddersfield.
Thibaut Courtois couldn’t manage a clean sheet against Huddersfield but looked assured when called upon at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Gary Cahill was rested against Huddersfield but should come back in alongside Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta, with Antonio Rudiger resigned to a place on the bench.
Rotation has been key for Conte in full-back roles this season and with Davide Zappacosta missing out against Huddersfield, the Italian could come back in here at right wing-back. Marcos Alonso may slot in on the left, with Victor Moses set to miss out.
N’Golo Kante will be tasked with keeping things ticking in midfield, whilst Conte has a decision to make with Danny Drinkwater pushing for a return in midfield alongside him. Tiemoue Bakayoko impressed against Huddersfield and has given Conte a selection headache in that area.
Cesc Fabregas looks set to continue in a central midfield role in behind the in-form Willian and Eden Hazard – who has been employed as a striker in recent weeks and his energy and movement up front seems to offer a different dimension for the Blues.
Predicted Starting XI
Chelsea are a long way off the pace in the Premier League title race but still sit in third and need to keep winning to tighten their grip on a European football slot with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool breathing down their necks. Southampton defended resolutely at Manchester City and are a tough nut to crack and former blues Oriel Romeu and Ryan Bertrand will be keen to showcase their talents at their former stomping ground.
Southampton will fancy their chances with Chelsea lacking any sort of form but the Blues should have too much about them – especially at home.
Chelsea 2 – 1 Southampton