2014 begins on the South Coast with a rematch against recent opposition. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton ring in the new year…
After brilliantly shackling and dominating Suarez and co, the challenge is to start expressing the same personality away from home at places such as St Mary's. The impressive win over Liverpool raised our total points in the opening half of the season to 38, a four-year high. The gap between third and fourth has opened to three points.
Today's fixture offers another chance of self-improvement as the Blues were seen off 2-1 here last season when Rafael Benitez was in charge. The Spaniard had little choice but to field a slightly weakened side as the FA Cup quarter-final clash with Manchester United was scheduled for Easter Monday lunchtime, fewer than 48 hours later.
Today is the quick turnaround rematch from the home meeting at the Bridge; the first action of the second half of the season is against a team we played just 31 days ago.
Southampton's last eight games have included one win and five defeats, including the 1-3 at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho turned that game around after Saints took the lead, switching to two upfront and overwhelming the visitors. The final score could have been a lot higher.
Southampton's sole taste of victory in the recent difficult spell came away at beleaguered Cardiff on Boxing Day. Minor consolation for Argentinean Mauricio Pochettino, a young manager experiencing English football's uniquely gruelling festive period for the first time, is that his side have hit the net in all but one of that off-key octet of games.
This match is the fourth in 11 days for the south coast side, while for Chelsea the span is just 10 days.
The hosts were the 'surprise team' of the opening exchanges, peaking at third place in the table after a home victory against Hull. They have not tasted victory at St Mary's since and it is tempting to consider whether opposition managers have worked out how to stifle their brand of high-pressure football.
They have slipped to ninth and at the weekend Pochettino was bemoaning a supposed bias against his 'young, handsome players' (which may have lost something via his translator).
In reality his youthful Adonises are very well drilled in the ways to break up opposition counter-attacks as quickly as possible. They know all the tricks of the trade.
Meanwhile Mourinho had a point about Eden Hazard's tricky approach play being too good for opponents but somehow not enough for a penalty award when they trip him up. The latest example was provided by Lucas Leiva on Sunday.
The Liverpool victory was Mourinho's 70th home league game without defeat at the Bridge and Samuel Eto'o netted his third goal in eight league games, all at home. Still no Chelsea attacker has yet scored away on the road in the league this season, and today is as good a time to change that as any.
Congratulations to John Terry for reaching 600 appearances. Having celebrated his 33rd birthday earlier this month, JT is the third youngest of the four players to reach that remarkable milestone. Ron Harris (31 years old) was the most youthful and is pictured below, then Peter Bonetti (32), Terry and finally Frank Lampard (35).
Bonetti's landmark came a little over 40 years ago on 24 November 1973 at home to today's opponents. He honoured the occasion with a shutout in a 4-0 win through Ian Britton, Chris Garland and two for Steve Kember.
Petr Cech can equal The Cat's all-time clean sheet record with a blank this afternoon.
How did this calendar year compare to the previous one? Chelsea played one more game in 2013 than we did in 2012. Our record for the year was: played 66, won 39, drawn 13, lost 14, goals 124, goals conceded 66, clean sheets 23.
Our record in 2012 was played 65, won 36, drawn 15, lost 14, goals 137, goals conceded 77, clean sheets 21, in 2011 was played 53, won 27, drew 14, lost 12; goals 100, goals conceded 53; clean sheets 17, and in 2010 was played 53, won 34, drew 6, lost 13; goals 127, goals conceded 46; clean sheets 24.
We are also two points better off at the same halfway stage. The top of the Premier League one year ago read like this:
|31 December 2012|
However, Chelsea's first game of 2013 was a 0-1 defeat to QPR (who were bottom with 10 points) at Stamford Bridge.
Here's wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2014.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Swansea v Manchester City 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Cardiff 3pm
Crystal Palace v Norwich 3pm
Fulham v West Ham 3pm
Liverpool v Hull 3pm
Southampton v Chelsea 3pm - BT Sport
Stoke v Everton 3pm
Sunderland v Aston Villa 3pm
West Brom v Newcastle 3pm
Manchester United v Tottenham 5.30pm - BT Sport
|Barclays Premier League top 10|
Click on the tabs above for more briefing.
David Luiz is suspended after receiving his fifth yellow of the season in the victory over Liverpool, while Frank Lampard is injured and Branislav Ivanovic doubtful. Midfielder Ramires is available after his one-game ban.
Saints' midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is back after suspension at the weekend but goalie Artur Boruc, midfielder Victor Wanyama and forward Guly do Prado remain sidelined. Another attacker, Dani Osvaldo, has been ill recently.
In the success against Liverpool Chelsea played a similar high pressing game to the first 45 minutes against Swansea, a side that also likes to build from the back.
Interesting to see lessons Pochettino has drawn from our recent encounter and the 4-4-2 deployment that changed the game. It is the first experience of Christmas period football for the Argentinean. Many a manager has come a cropper during the intense schedule without the winter break to which they are accustomed.
Pochettino likes his side to play as much as possible in the opponent's half, all his full-backs playing like wingers and ready to receive the ball as soon as possible. Excelling in the no.10 role in the middle, captain Adam Lallana is growing in confidence and influence, and looks a yard faster in the mind and the legs than a year ago.
When their high pressing game fails Southampton will do almost anything to nip opposition attacks in the bud and they give away a hefty number of fouls. Sometimes under pressure and on the back foot they lose their collective spirit and play like strangers.
A goal down in the first minute after Michael Essien's errant back-pass during our recent encounter at the Bridge, Chelsea switched to 4-4-2 at half-time. Saints were unable to adapt to the additional threat upfront. Other sides, including Spurs at St Mary's, have started with two up and enjoyed success.
Chelsea Academy graduate Jack Cork (pictured below) has been figuring alongside the equally combative Schneiderlin or James Ward-Prowse in the south coast side's deep-lying midfield during Wanyama's absence. Saints have conceded nine goals in the five-and-a-half games since the much-cautioned former Celtic player went off against Aston Villa.
The Blues will also push wide players forward to exploit space behind the home side full-backs' propensity to stay forward and draw out the middle two at the back. It seems likely that Demba Ba and Fernando Torres will be involved today. The bustling Senegalese has previously scored four in four games against the Hampshire side, including one in the 1 December comeback.
Centre-halves Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren have not appeared as assured without Boruc. His 21-year-old replacement in goal, Paulo Gazzaniga, does not look in complete physical command of his area, despite being 6ft 5in tall.
The central defenders have sometimes looked naive and laboured in recent games and can be guilty of ball-watching. A few weeks ago they boasted the league's best defensive record but now they are down to fourth by the same measure.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Southampton's win against us at St Mary's last season was their first on home soil since November 2000 at the Dell when a brace from James Beattie and Joe Tessem help them to a 3-2 victory. Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet scored for Chelsea.
Chelsea's last league win at Southampton was in April 2005 when Jose Mourinho was in charge, although we did win 5-1 at St Mary's in the FA Cup last season. The Blues had won four and drawn once in our five previous visits to St Mary's Stadium in all competitions.
History was made in the English top flight during this fixture on Boxing Day 14 years ago when Chelsea's Italian player-manager Gianluca Vialli picked a starting 11 without a single British footballer.
The selection, off the back of a jarring 0-2 home defeat by Leeds a week earlier, was especially brave as it came during the hectic Christmas programme - a winter schedule unique to British football.
Three Englishmen, Chris Sutton, Dennis Wise and Jon Harley, had played against Leeds, with Jody Morris an unused substitute. Wise's partner was expecting their first child, Sutton was ill and another Brit, Graeme Le Saux, remained injured. Gianfranco Zola and Marcel Desailly were both unavailable too, and no-nonsense Brazilian defender Emerson Thome made his Chelsea debut.
Youngsters Morris and Harley would come on at the Dell, but only once the game was all but won.
Southampton were struggling in the league and had no answer to Tore André Flo's leading of the line with Gustavo Poyet providing excellent support. It was the Uruguayan who set up Flo for his opener, a wonderfully fluent move.
Nigeria full-back Celestine Babayaro hit the bar with a rare shot before Frenchman Didier Deschamps slipped a through-ball behind the Saints' rearguard. Flo eluded the offside trap and clipped over goalie Paul Jones to make it 2-0.
The English lads started to make their bow from the 74th minute, and although Kevin Davies pulled a goal back with 10 minutes remaining it was Flo's shot against a post that came closest to augmenting the 2-1 scoreline.
The media were typically vicious in their attack on Chelsea's all-overseas line-up but Saints manager Dave Jones was more sanguine, observing: 'Their 11 foreigners beat our seven Brits.'
Our last 10 league meetings at Southampton
1996/97 - Drew 0-0
1997/98 - Southampton won 1-0
1998/99 - Chelsea won 2-0
1999/00 - Chelsea won 2-1
2000/01 - Southampton won 3-2
2001/02 - Chelsea won 2-0
2002/03 - Drew 1-1
2003/04 - Chelsea won 1-0
2004/05 - Chelsea won 3-1
2012/13 - Southampton won 2-1
The reverse fixture this season
1 December 2013 Barclays Premier League
Cahill 54 Rodriguez 13 secs
Chelsea v Southampton in all competitions
Games played 92
Chelsea wins 37
Saints wins 29
Head to head in the League at The Dell and St Mary's Stadium
Games played 39
Chelsea wins 15
Saints wins 13
Biggest league win at Southampton for each team
Southampton 0-3 Chelsea - 03/09/1966
Southampton 5-0 Chelsea - 01/02/1969
Chelsea won a league game at Southampton: 3,196
Southampton failed to score at home: 108
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,147
Liverpool won the league: 8,642
Chelsea have gained 14 points from losing positions this season, the best record in the Barclays Premier League.
Since the November international break, the Blues have won 19 points from a possible 24 available.
We have an identical record compared to the corresponding 19 fixtures last season.
Chelsea have won 12 points from a possible 24 away from Stamford Bridge this term.
|Last six results|
|Dec 11||Steaua Bucharest (Champions League h)||W 1-0|
|Dec 14||Crystal Palace (h)||W 2-1|
|Dec 17||Sunderland (Capital One Cup a)||L 1-2 aet|
|Dec 23||Arsenal (a)||D 0-0|
|Dec 26||Swansea (h)||W 1-0|
|Dec 29||Liverpool (h)||W 2-1|
League games since
An away win: 2
An away draw: 0
An away defeat: 1
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Sun 5 Jan||Derby (FA Cup) away||2.15pm|
|Sat 11 Jan||Hull away||12.45pm|
|Sun 19 Jan||Manchester United home||4.00pm|
If selected Eden Hazard will make his 50th Premier League start.
1 FA Cup in 1976
Premier League - 14th
FA Cup - Third round
Capital One Cup - Fourth round
Saints' best season was in 1983/84 when they finished runners-up to Liverpool in the old First Division.
Southampton have won 15 points from a possible 27 at St Mary's this term. They have four wins against Crystal Palace, Swansea, Fulham and Hull, three draws with Sunderland, West Ham and Man City and two defeats to Aston Villa and Tottenham.
Southampton have the fourth tightest defence in the Premier League with 20 goals conceded in 19 matches. Only Arsenal, Everton (both 18) and Chelsea (19) have conceded fewer.
Saints have kept one clean sheet in their last 10 league games having kept six in their first nine.
They have not won any of the nine Premier League games when they conceded the opening goal.
Since the November international break, Saints have won five points from a possible 24 with just one win against Cardiff on Boxing Day.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino
Days in charge: 348
|SOUTHAMPTON'S LAST 10 YEAR LEAGUE HISTORY|
|Last six results|
|Dec 4||Aston Villa (h)||L 2-3|
|Dec 7||Manchester City (h)||D 1-1|
|Dec 14||Newcastle (a)||D 1-1|
|Dec 22||Tottenham (h)||L 2-3|
|Dec 26||Cardiff (a)||W 3-0|
|Dec 29||Everton (a)||L 1-2|
Premier League scorers (26)
Rodriguez 8, Lambert 6 (2 pens), Lallana 4, Osvaldo 3, S Davis 1, Fonte 1, Lovren 1, Ramirez 1, Schneiderlin 1.
League games since
A home win: 3
A home draw: 1
A home defeat: 0
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Martin Atkinson is the official for his second Chelsea match this term. He was the referee for our goalless draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford in August.
David Luiz is suspended (one match) for reaching five yellow cards this season.
From 1 January five domestic yellow cards will no longer result in a ban. However 10 bookings before the second Sunday in April will incur a two-match suspension.