Southampton vs Chelsea Preview: Blues' diminishing top-four hopes could face further dent with visit to Saints

Southampton vs Chelsea Preview: Blues' diminishing top-four hopes could face further dent with visit to Saints

Southampton welcome an uninspiring Chelsea team to St. Mary's this weekend, with both sides still fighting for something in the Premier League.

Ryan White

Under-pressure Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will be aiming to keep his hopes of finishing in the top four alive as the Blues make a trip to the south coast as Southampton play host in this weekend's fixture between the two top-flight outfits. 

The Saints are three points adrift of safety, albeit with a game in hand over nearest relegation rivals Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town. Supporters will be in high spirits going in the encounter despite the defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates last time out, having put in a respectable performance in the capital. 

As for Chelsea, they were forced to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge against fellow London-based club West Ham United; that result leaving Conte's men some ten points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with a measly six games remaining. 

Mark Hughes has currently accumulated thirty matches as a club manager against Chelsea - winning just five of those and falling victim 21 times - averaging 0.63 points per game against the former Premier League champions, one of the lowest for the Welshman. 

Nevertheless, as the Saints and Blues aim to fulfil their own targets for the 2017/18 campaign, this weekend's fixture will be nothing short of entertaining. 


Saints without several key figures

Southampton may be up against it on Saturday as the first-team suffers from a number of notable players sitting on the sidelines. 

Centre-half Jack Stephens, who has linked up wisely with Wesley Hoedt since January, will miss the visit of Chelsea having received his marching orders late on in the Arsenal defeat. Meanwhile, midfielder Mario Lemina, absent from that match, could be back in the frame to start after recovering from an illness. 

Striker Shane Long is reported to be in the treatment room with an ankle injury so Charlie Austin is likely to make his first start for the club since picking up a hamstring injury in December

Defensive shortages proving damaging 

Antonio Conte has certainly not been helped this season with the back line injuries his team has entailed, and that will continue going into the weekend. 

Italian full-back Davide Zappacosta is suffering from a muscular problem so could miss the away trip to St. Mary's, as will David Luiz whose return to the first-team is unlikely to be in the near future. 

Highly-rated teenager Ethan Ampadu has been ruled out for the rest of the term. 


Recent history favours visitors

Chelsea fans can head into the game with some optimism considering their form at St. Mary's in recent years; the Blues have claimed three triumphs and one draw from their previous four outings on the south coast.

Southampton have not beaten their opposition on home turf since 2013. 

Saturday's visitors have also won all of the last four meetings between the Saints and Chelsea.

The hosts last beat the south-west London outfit two-and-half-years ago when an early Willian opener was cancelled out by goals courtesy of Steven DavisSadio Mané and Graziano Pelle as Southampton ended up 3-1 winners at Stamford Bridge.