Analysis of this Sunday’s key Premier League clash between Chelsea and Southampton. Both sides need a victory in order to keep their season’s on track as we head into the final ten games of the season.
Chelsea and Southampton meet in the first installment of this weekend’s barnstorming Super Sunday doubleheader and neither side will be content with anything other then three points.
For Chelsea, only a victory will wash away the sour test left by their Champions League exit at the hands of PSG, while Southampton’s recent poor form means they cannot afford to lose any further ground to the other Champions League chasers. Ronald Koeman’s men will be motivated by knowing any hopes of playing in Europe’s elite competition could be irreparably damaged by a defeat this weekend.
The omens do not bode well for the Saints, who have struggled for form in recent weeks. Fortress Stamford Bridge has been nothing short of impenetrable this season, with the league leaders dropping only four points there all year.
However, this Southampton side has overcome the doubters all season and will not be fazed by the odds being against them. With goals likely to be at a premium, their league leading defensive unit’s ability to hold up against the likes of Hazard, Costa et al will determine if they are to remain legitimate top four contenders.
Southampton 1-1 Chelsea
Sun 01 Dec 2013: Chelsea 3-1 Southampton
Wed 01 Jan 2014: Southampton 0-3 Chelsea
Chelsea: W-D-W-W-D-W (14 pts)
Southampton: L-W-D-L-L-W (7pts)
Diego Costa (£14.9 m, GW 28 pts: 470) v Jose Fonte (£8.1 m, GW 28 pts: 1195)
This has the potential to be one of the most intriguing individual match ups of the season, between two men who represent everything their respective clubs stand for; Costa, a brutish, aggressive bully with an under-appreciated level of guile and skill, will go toe to toe with the unflappably calm, hard working Fonte.
Much is made of how Costa is the perfect man to lead the Mourinho front line because of his combative nature. However, this characterization does a disservice to his other abilities as a striker. His 17 goals have him tied for the golden boot with Sergio Aguero and have provided the key ingredient for Chelsea that was sorely lacking last season. He has achieved this record from just 65 attempts on goal this season, a remarkable 26.2% chance conversion rate bettered only by Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse.
Breaching the Southampton defence will be one of his stiffest challenges. Marshaled by Fonte, the Saints defensive has conceded a miserly 20 goals this season, keeping clean sheets in 13 of their 28 matches. Such has been their level of performance this season that goalkeeper Fraser Forster has been called upon to make just 55 saves, an average of less then two per game. In many ways this clash represents the old immovable force, irresistible object adage and it will be riveting viewing to see who comes out on top this Sunday.
Eden Hazard (£14.1 m, GW 28pts: 1595) v Saido Mane (£9.7m, GW 28pts: 1900)
Both of these men scored in the reverse fixture at St.Mary’s and both have also emerged as the focal points of their sides attacking threat. Indeed Mane’s importance to the Saints is highlighted by the fact that he is the only player in their squad to have scored a Premier League goal in the past six matches.
After a quiet start to the season, which saw him written off by many (including ourselves), the Senegalese international burst into life in the period just after Christmas by scoring goals in three consecutive games. His progress was curtailed by a combination of injury and African Cup of Nations Duty, which saw him miss out on a month of Premier League action. Since then he has come back and delivered two late winners in his last six appearances.
Hazard has, in our view at least, been the Premier League’s outstanding performer all season. Despite coming in for constant punishment from opposition defenders he never stops looking for the ball, evidenced by his 122 successful dribbles (34 more than any other player). He has scored both the most goals of any midfielder (10) and created the most chances for teammates (74). It’s scary to think how could he can become.
This has the makings of a defensive battle between the two best defensive records in the Premier League. These two sides have combined for more clean sheets this season (26) then defensive errors (25).
Southampton have really struggled in front of goal recently, scoring just twice in the past six matches. Graziano Pelle, in particular, has really struggled in front of goal. The Italian striker has yet to score in 2015.