The chance to return to winning ways comes on home soil this weekend. The Saints are in town and club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready and waiting...
Southampton are the visitors to Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s last outing before another international break.
It is a Saturday 3pm kick-off, which are turning up like London buses this season. The Blues are unbeaten in the past five games in that slot since December 2019, netting 14 goals, winning three times (most recently the 3-0 against Palace), and drawing twice, notably last season’s 3-3 against this weekend’s opponents.
That October 2020 result, in which the Saints came twice from behind, including in the last minute, is an example of the mischief they have created at the Bridge, the Premier League opposition ground where they have claimed their third-biggest points tally. In fact, the Blues have not taken all three points from the South Coast visitors since Marcos Alonso’s swerving free-kick in December 2017.
On paper this is third place versus 16th, but it has been a testing week for Chelsea, with the unwelcome binary of back-to-back 1-0 losses hampering progress at home and abroad. However, many of the season’s toughest challenges are now out of the way and the Londoners are still in the hunt on all fronts. Elsewhere this weekend Manchester City make the trip along the M62 to Liverpool, and one or both has to drop points.
Chelsea have won seven and lost one of our past 11 Premier League encounters with Southampton.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Given the paucity of chances at both ends over the last 180 minutes, some might argue Chelsea lost two matches destined to finish 0-0.
Our possession of the ball is lacking some of its usual quality, purpose and spontaneity in the final third against deep-lying defences. After zero shots on target against Manchester City four days earlier, Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny had to make one save.
On Wednesday night Thomas Tuchel made several personnel and formation changes after Federico Chiesa caught us cold just as the second half opened.
The Bavarian became the first Chelsea coach to bring five Englishmen off the bench in the same match and the changes almost worked.
The Blues’ top shot-creators on the night were all among those subs: Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek setting up four efforts on goal in their 29 minutes, and half-time sub Ben Chilwell managing three.
For long periods in Turin the Blues abandoned playing the ball out from the back, and that might be advisable against the Saints, who attack as a 4-2-4 with six hardworking players deployed to box teams in and force errors high upfield.
It was also the fifth straight game in all competitions without a first-half goal for Chelsea, whose tally of six scored in the Premier League is the most (with Liverpool).
Southampton have not conceded so far in the opening 45, though Romelu Lukaku may be confident of denting that record. His strike-rate against Saints of nine goals in 12 league games is the second-best in his career behind Bournemouth (nine in eight).
Most of our better opportunities against Juve were well-found headers, including for the Belgian, and Southampton have the lowest percentage of aerial duels won.
Perseverance of the Saints
It is feast or famine for Southampton fans depending on the competition. The club that have netted 10 times in the Carabao Cup (in which these two teams meet later this month) have troubled the scorer only four times in the league. One of their leading scorers in the top flight is Fred, the Manchester United midfielder.
They are still creating opportunities: while Chelsea are exceeding the expected goals estimates this season (scoring 12 goals compared to the xG of 8.4), Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men have an xG only 1.3 lower (7.1). The team that racked up 1.24 goals per game in last season’s top flight is currently managing almost half that: 0.67.
That said, they appear more disciplined than last season’s Saints, whose halo slipped in 9-0 and 5-2 defeats and who finished 15th in the table. Their goal concession rate is down considerably from a 2020/21 average of 1.79 (2.26 away) to 1.17 this campaign.
Southampton have drawn four times so far, the Manchester clubs included, and Hasenhuttl may set up in SW6 as he did at the Etihad: a 4-1-4-1 with a diamond midfield against City’s depleted 4-3-3.
The Blues should also expect the same intense high pressing to stop them building attacks from defence and winning the ball close to goal. Only four Premier League teams harass defences more in such a fashion: Brighton, Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal. It is also notable they have been caught offside fewer times than any rival but have the fifth-most successful entrapment rate.
Pep Guardiola’s side still squeezed out 16 shots against Southampton but just the one on target in the face of diligent defending. Centre-back mainstay Jack Stephens will be missing this weekend, as he was for last weekend’s home loss to Wolves.
After a testing run of fixtures, the Saints would have hoped to pick up something against a team one rung below them in 16th, but their combinations were not clicking and they lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
Arguably they have missed the invention of injured midfielder Stuart Armstrong, who is unlikely to be involved this weekend. Armando Broja, who has brought energy and invention from bench, is also unable to feature under the regulations of his loan from Chelsea.
While the search for a first league win continues, the points tally is worse than performances. Six worse than the same stage last season, in fact, and down on every campaign as far back as 2012/13.
There is quite a squadron of Blues moored at Southampton these days. Summer signing 18-year-old Tino Livramento has been ever-present and impressive at right-back. Calm and purposeful, he already has the Saints fans hailing his qualities and singing his name.
He is just one of several graduates of our famous Academy at the south coach club. Another, Armando Broja, now 20, has been called off the bench regularly by Ralph Hasenhuttl but is ruled out against his parent club, while centre-back Dynel Simeu, 19, also a summer recruit from Cobham, has been training with Southampton’s first team.
Oriol Romeu, who joined Chelsea aged 19 in 2011, has since made more than 200 appearances for the Hampshire club. No longer part of the cohort is one of our lions of Munich, Ryan Bertrand, who joined Leicester in July after a seven-year stint.
The Guardian newspaper has reported that Chelsea and Liverpool matching each other’s scorelines (3-0, 2-0, 1-1, 3-0, 3-0) over five weekends from the start of the season is the longest such sequence in English football history for clubs in the same division.
Across the Premier League this weekend, there will be a minute's applause for England 1966 World Cup winner Roger Hunt, who passed away this week. He played the majority of his club football at Liverpool. Players will wear black armbands.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust will appeal again to the matchday generosity of Blues fans on behalf of the Hammersmith and Fulham Foodbank on Saturday.
This season’s collection point is at the gates of Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, adjacent to the Bridge. Needs are greater than ever, sadly, and donations of long-life juice and milk, tinned fruit, meat, and vegetables, and instant coffee are especially welcomed.
New streaming channel for Women
While the men fly off for internationals, Emma Hayes’ Women embark on their next Champions League adventure. Last season’s finalists welcome Wolfsburg to Kingsmeadow for a first-ever group stage match from 8pm on Wednesday 6 October.
Birmingham City Women 0-4 Chelsea Women (A) | FA Women's Cup Highlights
Highlights of Chelsea Women's big midweek FA Cup win...
The game is a repeat of last season’s quarter-final, which Chelsea won home and away, having been knocked out by the Germans three times previously. All the action will be streamed live on the new DAZN UEFA Women’s Champions League YouTube channel.
Tickets for the match, as well as the upcoming league fixtures at home to Brighton and Leicester, are also on sale now. Click here to buy.
Fans attending the games at Stamford Bridge or Kingsmeadow this weekend should be aware of Covid requirements or risk not being allowed in.
Matchweek 7 Premier League fixtures
Man Utd v Everton 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Burnley v Norwich 3pm
Chelsea v Southampton 3pm
Leeds v Watford 3pm
Wolves v Newcastle 3pm
Brighton v Arsenal 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Crystal Palace v Leicester 2pm (Sky Sports)
Tottenham v Aston Villa 2pm
West Ham v Brentford 2pm
Liverpool v Man City 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
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