Chelsea have closed the book on 2013, and will play their first game of 2014 tomorrow at St. Mary's. Ironically, the Blues opened 2013 at the exact same venue, where the ran away with a 5-1 victory that saw the Saints ousted from the FA Cup.
The two sides are meeting for the 93rd time, with Chelsea having won 37, drawn 26, and lost 29 of the previous meetings. Away from Stamford Bridge, those numbers are a more even looking 16, 13, and 17 respectively.
After Southampton was relegated in 2005, the two sides didn't meet until they regained top flight status last season. They've met three times in the league since Southampton's return (in addition to the FA Cup meeting), with Chelsea's lone win in those matches coming in this season's first meeting. They managed only one point against the Saints in the two league meetings under Rafa, a 2-2 home draw in January and a 2-1 loss at St. Mary's in March.
While three points from this fixture would be ideal, leaving Southampton with a draw would assure we don't drop below third in the table on Wednesday. A loss could potentially see Chelsea drop as low as fourth, while a win and some help could even see Chelsea topping the table at the end of the day.
Our opponents started the season in fine form, but have looked very shaky of late. Since the beginning of November, the Saints have won just two of their 11 contests (victories over Hull City and Cardiff). They've managed draws against Newcastle, Stoke City, Manchester City, and Manchester United, while they've lost to Chelsea, Arsenal, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Tottenham, and Everton.
Soton have their own style, which most pundits seem to absolutely love. They like to play possession based football, building slowly from the back as opposed to looking to bypass the midfield with the long ball. They don't produce a whole lot from the wide areas of the pitch, with the bulk of their attacks coming through the center. This has led to a less than astonishing goal total, though 26 goals from 19 games is still respectable enough.
The system Soton use has also led to a very impressive defensive record, with the club having allowed only 20 goals in their first 19 games. They're a very aggressive defensive side, though this does make them very open to being hit on the counterattack. Chelsea coped very well in the first meeting of the season, dominating the game in a 3-1 win. Southampton's only shot on target in that contest came from a perfectly weighted Michael Essien backpass, the rest of the game was pretty much all Chelsea.
Date/Time: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 15:00 GMT (10:00 am EST, 7:00 am PST, 20:30 IST)
Venue: St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton, England
Forecast: Very mild temperatures with a 100% chance of rain are in the Southampton forecast for game time.
Chelsea Squad News: Marco van Ginkel and Frank Lampard are both definitely out with injury, while David Luiz will miss the contest due to a suspension. Branislav Ivanovic is a doubt, though his knee injury was reportedly not severe enough that we should be expecting a prolonged absence.
Southampton Squad News: Southampton will be without Artur Boruc, Victor Wanyama, and Guly do Prado tomorrow. Dani Osvaldo is questionable, and Nathaniel Clyne looks set to return from a hamstring injury.
Television/Streaming: In the US, the game is on NBCSN and will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra. In the UK, it will be aired on BT Sport 1. In India, Star Sports 4 has the game. Chelsea TV will have live audio to go along with pre and post-match coverage, all other listings can be found here.
- MK Dons confirm Patrick Bamford departure
- Southampton vs. Chelsea: You choose the squad
- Eto'o apologizes over dangerous challenge on Jordan Henderson
- What was your favorite Chelsea moment of 2013?
- Thorgan Hazard looks set to trade Zulte Waregem for Anderlecht
- Will he; won't he? Balotelli's agent now denies Milan exit rumors