Southampton take on champions Chelsea on Saturday afternoon as they go in search of a seventh consecutive clean sheet and a sixth win in seven matches in all competitions. The home side will be hoping to further their quest of European football, whereas the visitors look to finish the season strong after a tough start under Jose Mourhino, which led to the arrival of Guus Hiddink.
Consistency a major factor for hosts
After enduring a really difficult November and December period the Saints are right back in form, having improved their results since the turn of the year. In that difficult run the Saints weren't playing at all badly, but they just couldn't find the results which the performances were meriting.
Many of the Saints players are now showing consistent performances on a regular basis as everyone knows their role in the side and performances have definitely stepped which has coincided with the return to form. Also, Fraser Forster returned at the start of the run and has been pivotal in the turn-around in Saints season as he has kept six clean-sheets since making a comeback and has installed high levels of confidence to the defence in front of him.
The Saints enjoyed a week off from action last weekend as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Crystal Palace earlier in the competition. Many of their players have been able to have some down-time with their families and a chance to switch off from their normal football lives. This may hand the hosts the edge in this game as Chelsea have played three times since the Saints last played against Swansea, although they are professional athletes and so this really shouldn't be a problem.
Can the Saints stop Chelsea's run?
Since Hiddink has returned to Chelsea they are unbeaten in the league and many of their players are playing a lot better than they were previously. Chelsea have looked much more of threat of late and many of their players look far more motivated to play for the interim boss.
Saints have been superb of late and Chelsea won't have things all their own way in this one as it will once more be difficult for the visitors to find a way past this resolute Saints defence. The way that the Saints may be able to stop this run is through playing the 5-3-2 formation as it will allow them to have another defender on the dangerous forward Diego Costa, whilst also being able to quell the damage which other attackers Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro.
Southampton are still without Victor Wanyama, who is serving the second match of a five-game suspension. Florin Gardos and Jay Rodriguez are both back in training, although they will need a few weeks to build up their fitness after long-term injuries. Other than that, the boss Ronald Koeman has a fully-fit squad to choose upon for the visit of the Champions.
Chelsea captain John Terry is not yet ready to return from a hamstring injury, although he has not been ruled out of Tuesday's game at Norwich. Alexandre Pato will not feature as he is still building up his fitness. Fellow striker Radamel Falcao remains injured. Once more Branislav Ivanovic will step in at centre-half alongside England international Gary Cahill.