Regardless of the result in this game, Chelsea will have finished the first quarter of the season in at least fifth place, and at most four points behind leaders Manchester City. Palpable improvement over last season's travails, with the added bonus of being at least four points above our former manager's new friends in the red half of Manchester as well.
All that could read even better (just one point behind City and seven points ahead of United) if we manage to replicate last season's unexpected feat of winning 2-1 against Southampton at St. Mary's. It was just our third win in our last eight meetings with Saints, who have quickly become a bit of a bogey team.
Their home record since that loss has been nothing short of impressive, a twelve match unbeaten run in all competitions, including nine wins. Southampton don't score much but they concede even less (only four from open play, with another four from the penalty spot in the league) and have very good underlying metrics — they are among the Premier League's leaders in shots on target despite scoring at half the pace of the likes of City and Liverpool.
Since switching to the 3-4-3, Chelsea have recorded several good results, but this one will be the toughest test yet. All the disappointment and frustration of the midweek League Cup exit must be channeled into getting a good result here.
Date / Time: Sunday, October 30, 2016, 16:00 GMT; 12pm EDT; 9:30pm IST (note: the UK & Europe will end daylight savings at 2am local time on Sunday; the USA will follow suit next weekend)
Venue: St. Mary's, Southampton, England
Referee: Mike Jones — Chelsea have failed to win the last four games officiated by Mr. Jones, including last season's 3-2 defeat at Sunderland and the 1-0 home loss to Bournemouth.
Forecast: Overcast but dry.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBC, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports 4 / Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Star Sports (India)
Southampton team news: Saints' ability to reload and stay competitive despite regularly selling their best players (and managers, too!) is rather impressive and they're once again firmly in the hunt for European places.
After collecting just two points from their first four games, they've gathered eleven from fifteen during the current five-match unbeaten run, which includes last weekend' impressive 1-1 result at the Etihad. Meanwhile, they remain alive in the League Cup and look good for advancing from the groups to reach the Europa League knockout stages as well.
New manager Claude Puel's ability to juggle their many commitments was praised by Antonio Conte earlier this week.
"Southampton are a very good team, very strong. I watched many of their games and I like Puel. His team play offensive football and in every game they play good football. In the last game they played well against Manchester City and had many chances."
"They are more compact in defensive situations and I'm sure on Sunday it will be very tough, but it will be a good test for us to continue after three good games. This test is different because it's away from home against a team in good shape. For our ambition it's a big test."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Southampton have several injuries, but should be able to field the same lineup as last weekend and the weekend before. Former Chelsea trainee Ryan Bertrand has a chance to return from a hamstring injury, but fellow full backs Matt Targett and Cedric Soares remain out. The ever annoying Shane Long will also be out, joining long-term injury victim Jay Rodriguez in the treatment room.
Unlike West Ham, Southampton will be unlikely to match Chelsea's 3-4-3 shape, which could provide for several mismatches in various areas of the pitch, in either team's favor.
View from the enemy: St. Mary's Musings
Chelsea team news: After rotating heavily for the League Cup match on Wednesday, Conte will no doubt return to the same starting eleven who worked so well against Manchester United last weekend and Leicester City the weekend before then. The squad may be almost fully healthy (Cesc Fàbregas the only absentee of note), but Conte isn't one to change up a winning formula without a good reason.
The Premier League's top three all won on Saturday, and all scored at least four goals. Chelsea's task is a bit tougher than City's, Arsenal's, or Liverpool's but there's a chance for a momentous victory here, which could add some real confidence to the Blues' top four aspirations.
Previously: Bane with the big winner! Southampton had entered this match on a 9-hour clean sheet streak. Similar heroics will be required today.