Southampton could get run over by Chelsea juggernaut
Tough task for misfiring Saints
Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm Tuesday
Days after booking their place in the FA Cup final, Chelsea return to their Premier League domination by greeting a Saints side who go to Stamford Bridge massive underdogs and with a terrible record against the big boys in this campaign.
Seven previous meetings this season against the top flight's top five have failed to produce a single triumph for Claude Puel’s side – two draws, five defeats, three goals scored, 14 conceded – and the scars of their most recent showdown with one of England’s giants only give added reasons to be fearful.
Southampton have had ten days to recover from a sorry 3-0 dismantling by Manchester City at St Mary's, a match in which they were picked off effortlessly and easily by a team who looked to be toying with them.
And if City can do that to them, then counter-attack kings Chelsea must be licking their lips at the possibilities.
Having said that, a home win doesn't necessarily mean a home massacre and Chelsea to win in a game featuring under 3.5 goals may be a more lucrative alternative to a straightforward punt on Conte's boys at a prohibitive price.
The stats, fairly predictably, point to that outcome. Chelsea have won 24 league games this term of which 17 have contained three goals or fewer.
That includes a 2-0 triumph at St Mary's. Twenty-four of Chelsea's 32 games and 24 of Southampton’s 31 have yielded three goals or fewer.
Chelsea go into the game with confidence through the roof after beating their biggest challengers this season, Tottenham, even if it was in the cup rather than the league.
That they got the result managing to leave Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench for an hour was another positive for Conte.
Rookie centre-back Jack Stephens says he's looking forward to pitting his young wits against Costa and the Saints defender is a decent prospect.
He and Maya Yoshida, however, have communication issues and the whole defensive set-up at Southampton look that much more vulnerable minus Virgil van Dijk, though the return of former Blue Oriol Romeu from a ban is a big plus for the visitors.
Another reason why Chelsea may not run away with it is because Romeu is top class in the Ngolo Kante role.
The fact that Southampton have had ten days to prepare for this assignment has to be of benefit to the Hampshire club, and they won at the Bridge last year.
But Chelsea are on a roll and Southampton's lack of goals – just 37 is fewer than the totals of West Ham, Leicester and Swansea – has to be a concern.
Chelsea to win & under 3.5 goals
1pt 23-20 Betway, BoyleSports, Coral
Gary Cahill has recovered from a bug and could feature. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, benched on Saturday, will return.
Oriol Romeu returns after a two-game ban. Virgil van Dijk, Charlie Austin and Matt Targett are long-term absentees.
Southampton’s record v current top five is: P7, W0, D2, L5.