Southampton vs Chelsea
When: Saturday, 14 April, 12:30 BST
Where: St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton
The first game of the weekend is an enticing one indeed. Southampton impressed with their performance in a 3-2 loss against Arsenal last week, coming within 10 minutes of taking a take point away from the Emirates. But for the 19th-placed side, performances don’t mean anything. They need points, and they need them fast. They are currently four points adrift of safety, with five games to go. This weekend, they face a very vulnerable Chelsea side at home, and will look to take full advantage.
The Blues have nothing left to play for in the season, and have lost three on the bounce on their travels. The last time they lost 4 in a row was way back in 2000, and this included a 3-2 defeat to Southampton. Antonio Conte’s men lie 10 points behind the Champions League places, and have close to no chance of finishing ahead of Spurs in 4th. They have won only 3 league games in 2018, and only four other teams (including Southampton) have a worse record than them in this calendar year.
Southampton, on the other hand, have all to play for. Their remaining games, after Chelsea this weeked, are against Leicester City, Bournemouth, Everton, Swansea City and Manchester City. This is not an easy run by any stretch of the imagination, and they will need 10 points at the very least to have any chance at survival.
These sides will face off once again next Sunday, in the FA Cup semi-finals. Mark Hughes, a former Chelsea player himself, will know that this is the best possible opportunity to take all three points against The Blues, who could focus their attention towards the cup entirely.
In the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge back in December, Chelsea triumphed 1-0 thanks to a Marcos Alonso free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
The Saints will be without defender Jack Stephens, who serves the first of his three-game ban after being sent off against Arsenal last weekend. Club record signing Mario Lemina, who missed that game through an illness, is expected to be fit for this one.
Shane Long should also be back after shaking off an ankle problem, while midfielder Steven Davis is out with an Achilles injury.
Conte is still without David Luiz (knee) and Ross Barkley (hamstring), while Ethan Ampadu is out for the season with an ankle injury.
Davide Zappacosta should overcome a tendon injury, and Andreas Christensen should also return after missing out on the draw against West Ham United last week.
McCarthy, Soares, Yoshida, Hoedt, Bertrand; Romeu, Lemina, Hojbjerg; Tadic, Long, Ward-Prowse.
Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Morata, Pedro.
Southampton have to go absolutely all-out in this one, and there is no reason why they can’t pull off a major upset against a Chelsea side that is completely all over the place right now. Mark Hughes has made The Saints play some very good football since his arrival last month, and now they need to convert those performances into results. For them to have any chance of survival, this is a must-win game.
Southampton 2-1 Chelsea