After four consecutive league games, it is two cup matches in a row for the Blues, beginning with the start of this season's FA Cup campaign. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton think third round…
This is Chelsea's first visit to St Mary's in eight years as we defend the FA Cup for the seventh time in our history. The Blues have an immensely proud record in this competition in recent times, winning it in three of the last four seasons.
Only Tottenham (eight times, most recent 1991), Arsenal (10, 2005) and Manchester United (11, 2004) have won the world's most fabled competition for football clubs more times.
Few teams have flown the FA Cup flag around the world as widely as Chelsea, especially across Europe, Africa and South America.
Players from Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain and Uruguay have been involved in winning finals with Chelsea since 1997, becoming ambassadors for the tournament.
'When you are a foreigner watching English football and you see that red carpet and the managers with the big flower,' 2000 trophy-winner Gustavo Poyet said recently, 'any player who comes to England is thinking that if they're lucky enough, they will be able to play once in the FA Cup final. So to be able to play in one and win it is even better.
'I say this coming from Uruguay, where there is no cup and from Spain where there is the Copa Del Rey, but the FA Cup is the greatest cup in the world.'
Other overseas Blues would concur: Didier Drogba, for example, became the first player to score in four FA Cup finals, winning on each occasion, including the first at the new Wembley in 2007.
Equally Ruud Gullit: no overseas manager had lifted the old trophy before he claimed it in 1997.
The Italian forward Gianfranco Zola danced a jig of delight on the pitch at the end of that game - and his Watford side square up to 2011 winners Manchester City this weekend.
Rafael Benitez might be forgiven for pondering the club's priorities over the next week, with a Capital One Cup semi-final first leg coming in midweek, ahead of a testy league trip to Stoke on Saturday.
Some of his players looked jaded and lacked intensity in the defeat at home to QPR, which saw the Blues remain in fourth place. That match was the 11th in 35 days for the Chelsea squad, which has fewer playing personnel than any Premier League rival this season.
There have also been injuries and suspensions to the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, David Luiz, John Mikel Obi and Oriol Romeu over the same period. As a result, new striker Demba Ba, who is cup-tied for the Europa League, may be called into action straight away at the Dell. Midfielder Yossi Benayoun has also returned from loan.
Probable underdogs Southampton enjoyed an unbeaten Christmas campaign but manager Nigel Adkins indicated that Premier League survival is his overriding concern in the team selection for their Capital One Cup match at Leeds in October.
He made 11 changes from the side that played Spurs the previous Sunday and the Saints were beaten 0-3. However, with his team having more recovery and preparation time than a bruised Chelsea side he may scent victory and keep his changes to a minimum.
If the scores are level after 90 minutes there will be a replay at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday 16 January, kick off 7.45pm, subject to any TV selection.
The draw for the FA Cup fourth round is on Sunday at around 3.30pm and will be broadcast live on ITV 1 and FATV.
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
In the third round of the 1976/77 FA Cup, promotion-chasing Chelsea were drawn against the side who had famously beaten Manchester United in the final the previous May. The trophy was paraded around the stadium before kick-off.
Southampton's was a seasoned squad that included former Shed idol Peter Osgood as well as Mick Channon, Ted MacDougall and Alan Ball. The make-up of the Blues' personnel was dictated by finance and status - the club having been impoverished by stadium costs and relegated in 1975.
Under 1960s/70s left-back Eddie McCreadie, who moved up from coach under Ron Suart to manager in April 1975, a fresh team was emerging from the ranks of the Chelsea juniors scheme, with Ray Wilkins its undoubted star and fulcrum.
Around Wilkins McCreadie assembled enthusiastic, hard-working and dynamic players, including a smattering of seniority with the likes of Mickey Droy, Peter Bonetti and David Hay.
It was a measure of the good work the Scot was doing that the team's last league action before the cup tie was a 5-1 demotion of Hereford in which Wilkins scored a sublime lob and youngsters Kenny Swain, Steve Finnieston (pictured below) and Garry Stanley hit the target.
The team travelled south a week later brimming with confidence and as one reporter put it, 'If Eddie McCreadie's catherine wheel team had a real marksman, Saturday's tie at The Dell would have seen the Cup-holders Southampton eliminated by half-time.'
That may be harsh on Finnieston - who actually netted 26 goals that season - but gave the measure of the visitors' performance. Yet all Chelsea had to show for that at half-time was a 1-0 lead provided by right-back Gary Locke's swashbuckling run and shot in the 35th minute; Swain was unable to convert two great chances.
Chelsea were a flurry of blue all over the field, harassing and winning the second ball against a First Division Saints team who seemed perturbed by the visitors' intensity.
Predictably, the game changed after the break as the Saints shook off their New Year lethargy. Just before the hour mark Channon swept Osgood's knock down past John Phillips, with the game ending 1-1.
The Blues were favourites to prevail in the replay four days later. However, the Saints had reached Wembley the previous season by beating Crystal Palace at the Stamford Bridge in the semi-final.
Once again the youngsters dominated the first half but this time no goal came. Goalless until the second period of extra time, the game was settled ruthlessly by Southampton's three-goal spree.
In all competitions Chelsea have won 15 times at Southampton in 44 attempts - although we have never won a cup tie there.
The Blues and Saints have been drawn against each other on four previous occasions in the FA Cup, with the south coast side progressing each time, three of them after a replay.
Chelsea have won three and drawn once at St Mary's Stadium on our four previous visits, all in the Premier League.
Chelsea v Southampton in the FA Cup
2nd round, 3 February 1923
2nd round replay, 7 February 1923
1st round, 12 January 1924
1st round replay, 16 January 1924
3rd round, 8 January 1977
3rd round replay, 12 January 1977
After extra time
3rd round, 3 January 1981, The Dell
Southampton 3-1 Chelsea
Manager Lawrie McMenemy
Peter Wells, Ivan Golac, Nicky Holmes, Steve Williams, Dave Watson, Chris Nicholl, Kevin Keegan (Trevor Hebberd 64), Mick Channon, Charlie George, Steve Moran, Graham Baker.
Scorers Moran (6), Keegan (40), Baker (77)
Manager Geoff Hurst
Petar Borota, Gary Locke, Dennis Rofe, John Bumstead (Phil Driver h/t), Mickey Droy, Gary Chivers, Ian Britton, Mike Fillery, Colin Lee, Clive Walker, Peter Rhoades-Brown.
Scorer Lee (81)
Referee Clive Thomas
Other cup meetings
1981/82 (2nd Rd 1st leg) - The Dell - Drew 1-1
(2nd Rd 2nd leg) - Stamford Bridge - Chelsea won 2-1
1997/98 (4th Rd) - Stamford Bridge - Chelsea won 2-1 aet
Zenith Data Systems Cup
1991/92 (Southern Final 1st leg) - The Dell - Saints won 2-0
(Southern Final 2nd leg) - Stamford Bridge - Saints won 3-1
Chelsea v Southampton in all competitions
Games played 88
Chelsea wins 35
Saints wins 28
Biggest win at Southampton for each team
Southampton 0-3 Chelsea - 03/09/1966 (Old Division One)
Southampton 5-0 Chelsea - 01/02/1969 (Old Division One)
Chelsea lost to Southampton: 3,991
Southampton beat a top-flight team in the FA Cup: 728
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,786
Liverpool won the league: 8,281
Visit again tomorrow for Part Two of the Briefing.