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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: SOUTHAMPTON V CHELSEA

TACTICAL BRIEF
Chelsea TV summariser and former winger Clive Walker battens down the hatches for an intense run of games and assesses how the Blues might successfully navigate the first of them at St Mary's.

Key battles
'I can't think of anything comparable to what the boys have to face over the coming weeks: Saturday, Monday, Thursday, Sunday. The congestion I experienced was always Christmas and New Year, then Easter, but not quite like this.

'Funnily enough my worst time was with Woking when my career was ending and I played four games in eight days and was only got brought off in one of them - 10 minutes from the end. Adrenalin can get you through - when you are winning!

'It's hard to avoid injury when commitment is essential. The key thing for players is plenty of rest. Players should be honest about fatigue too, but I think this is where managers earn their money. They watch players carefully during training and observe their general manner.

'This game is no more or less important as those that are on their way. Three points are obviously essential as we have a chance to help cement a Champions League spot.

'We've had a mixed bag of games against Southampton so far this season. Runway winners in the cup at St Mary's, then in the league at the Bridge Rickie Lambert's introduction for Fernandez changed the game and we suffered for it.

'At this stage of the season thoughts of past results don't matter a bit though. You focus on the 90 minutes and the team will have learned from previous matches that we don't let teams lower down the league off the hook. The way Eden Hazard has been playing the last few weeks, they may find him very difficult to live with but he - and Juan Mata, Oscar, Victor Moses etc. - have to keep reproducing it.

'All our players are important at this time but Rafael Benitez will be looking to keep the creative players fresh. Mentally they do things fans can't see coming. Defenders too - that's why they are very important to us winning matches, especially tight games.

'We will be hoping to start well with intensity against Southampton, not allow the home fans to get going, and score first. This is a match we can totally dominate if our concentration is good.

'Mentally, international breaks can be good. The worry is that the travelling for some can be very hard. As a manager you hope and pray your players come back from far-flung climes intact and on time.

'It's the same for all the clubs these days. Saints have had the likes of Gastón Ramirez playing two games at high altitude in South America. What state will he be in when he eventually makes it back?

'There is a question mark over whether they have the strength in depth to replace key players if they miss Saturday's game. Jos Hooiveld (pictured below right) held things together impressively at the back but limped out of their last match. Their full-backs Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw were impressive in that comeback. But again, Shaw has been injured and missed England's U21 games this week.

Chelsea v Southampton


'The Chelsea players have enjoyed a few wins which can be positive for the atmosphere in the dressing rooms, and the coming back will be easier.

'We have to be wary of Rickie Lambert. He plays on his own upfront and is one of those players who really can get up for big games. We must not give him an inch of space.

'He's got quality in hitting the target so will always be a threat. Free kicks, too, he can be a real danger. We can deal with that whoever plays at the back. The trick is to stop the delivery to him and Jason Puncheon, especially crosses.

'Jack Cork loved his time at Chelsea but now he's thriving in Saints' midfield he will want to put one over his old club.

'It was brilliant for Frank Lampard to reach 200 goals - truly remarkable - but Bobby Tambling's 202 is the real target. Not far to go though.

'I'd say Ray Wilkins could have been the best goalscoring midfielder in my day had formations been more flexible back then. Mickey Fillery, barring injuries, was outstanding for a short while.

'With such a tight schedule there's little point guessing who will start which games. We have to rotate and keep them all as fresh and effective as possible.

'Looking at Southampton since January, Mauricio Pochettino has not made big changes to his side yet. This season it's all about survival for them. For us there are still big prizes to win.'

Squad fitness news
Gary Cahill and Ramires's availability will be assessed close to the game. Oriol Romeu is the only player definitely out. For Southampton, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Jos Hooiveld all face late fitness tests.


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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: SOUTHAMPTON V CHELSEA

CHELSEA STATS
The Blues are eight points better off compared to the corresponding 29 fixtures last season.

Chelsea's defeat at West Ham in December was only our second reverse in the last 72 games against newly promoted teams, over a 12 year periiod. We have won 57 of those matches.

Chelsea have gained only one point from our last three away Barclays Premier League games since winning at Stoke in January.

Of the 19 occasions Chelsea have opened the scoring in the Premier League, we have won 14 games and drawn four. Only West Ham have defeated us.

Chelsea still have the Premier League's second-best scoring and defensive records this term.

We have gained 12 points from losing positions this season.

We have dropped 14 points from winning positions.

Last six results
Feb 27 Middlesbrough (FA Cup 5 a) W 2-0
Mar 2 West Brom (h) W 1-0
Mar 7 Steaua Bucharest (Europa League a) L 0-1
Mar 10 Manchester United (FA Cup a) D 2-2
Mar 28 Steaua Bucharest (Europa League h) W 3-1
Mar 17 West Ham (h) W 2-0

 

Premier League scorers
Lampard 12 (4 pens), Mata 10, E Hazard 8 (1 pen), Torres 7 (1 pen), Ivanovic 4, Ramires 4, Ba 2, Cahill 2, Cole 1, D Luiz 1, Marin 1, Moses 1, Oscar 1 (pen), Sturridge 1, Terry 1, own goals 2. Total 58


League games since
An away win: 3
An away draw: 2
An away defeat: 0


Chelsea's next three games
Mon 1 Apr Man United (FA Cup QF replay) home 12.30pm
Thu 4 April Rubin Kazan (Europa League) home 8.05pm
Sun 7 Apr Sunderland home 3pm

 

MILESTONES
Frank Lampard needs two goals to equal our all-time top scorer Bobby Tambling on 202.

If selected, Fernando Torres and Oscar will make their 50th appearance of the season for the Blues


SOUTHAMPTON STATS
Formed
1885

Major trophies
1 FA Cup in 1976


Saints best season was in 1983/84 when they finished runners-up to Liverpool in the old First Division.

Saints have conceded 52 league goals this season. Only Reading 57, Aston Villa 56 and Wigan 56 have conceded more.

Southampton have only come back to win one of the 13 league games their opponents opened the scoring.

They have dropped 27 points from winning positions, the worst record in the Premier League

At home this term they have won 20 points from a possible 45 with five wins against Aston Villa, Newcastle, Reading, Man City and Liverpool, five draws against Fulham, Swansea, Norwich, Arsenal and Everton and five defeats to Wigan, Man Utd, Tottenham, Sunderland and QPR.

Southampton have conceded more hat-tricks than any other Premier League side. The Saints have been on the receiving end of a treble on 16 occasions in the 14 seasons they have spent in the top flight since its rebranding in 1992.


Manager Mauricio Pochettino
Days in charge: 71
Played 8
Won 2
Drawn 3
Lost 3

SOUTHAMPTON'S LAST 10 YEAR LEAGUE HISTORY
Season Division Level Pos
2002/03 Premier League 1 8th
2003/04 Premier League 1 12th
2004/05 Premier League 1 20th
2005/06 Championship 2 12th
2006/07 Championship 2 6th
2007/08 Championship 2 20th
2008/09 Championship 2 23rd
2009/10 League One 3 7th
2010/11 League One 3 2nd
2011/12 Championship 2 2nd




PMB


 

Last six results
Feb 2 Wigan (a) D 2-2
Feb 9 Manchester City (h) W 3-1
Feb 24 Newcastle (a) L 2-4
Mar 2 QPR (h) L 1-2
Mar 9 Norwich (a) D 0-0
Mar 16 Liverpool (h) W 3-1


Premier League scorers
Lambert 13 (3 pens), Puncheon 5, Schneiderlin 5, Ramirez 4, Rodriguez 4, Fonte 2, Lallana 2, S Davis 2, Clyne 1, Fox 1, own goals 3. Total 42


League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 3
A home defeat: 1


WINDOW WATCH
Saints completed January transfers
Ins Vegard Forren (Molde, undisclosed)
Outs None


THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
The referee is Martin Atkinson. Chelsea have won four of the last five matches he has officiated, most recently a 2-0 FA Cup victory at Boro.


OTHERWISE ENGAGED
There are no suspensions.

David Luiz is one booking away from a two-match domestic ban for reaching 10 yellow cards before the second Sunday of April. Ramires has eight bookings.

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