Four of Chelsea’s next five games, through the end of the calendar year, are at Stamford Bridge, which does alleviate a tiny bit of the burden of the typically busy match calendar through the holiday period that begins with Saturday’s home contest against Southampton.
Saints come into town as one of the less in-form teams in the league, a trend that many of Chelsea’s recent opponents have had in common — though a trend that Chelsea did not take full advantage of with the loss to West Ham. In fairness, West Ham are suddenly unbeatable at home.
In any case, Chelsea may be out of the title race (practically, if not mathematically), but are very much embroiled in the top four scrap with Manchester United and one of Spurs, Liverpool, and Arsenal, whichever is less of a mess at any given time.
So, three points, as ever, are a must at home.
Date / Time: Saturday, December 16, 2017, 15:00 GMT; 10am EST; 8:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Roger East — Chelsea have never lost a match refereed by Roger East, though this will only be the 6th such occasion ever. East didn’t get a single Chelsea game last season; last time we saw him was in the 4-1 away win over Bournemouth in April 2016, which featured a center back pairing of Branislav Ivanović and Mikel John Obi to illustrate just how unimportant it was.
Forecast: Frosty early, less so later. Still cold and damp and not nice.
On TV: none (UK); NBCSN (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA); Hotstar (India); BBC 5 Live (UK radio); ChelseaTV (int’l radio)
Chelsea team news: David Luiz remains out with “big inflammation” in his knee, a condition that seems to be baffling enough for the doctors to be unable to put any real prognosis on it. Álvaro Morata’s back injury was slightly less baffling and he should be back in contention. Everyone else is basically fully fit and ready to go.
The 3-1 win over Huddersfield on Tuesday featured the fifth time in the last six games that Chelsea have failed to keep a clean sheet. Chelsea’s ability to finish chances against the Terriers was quite a bit more welcome however.
Chelsea have won 7 of 9 in the league and should be able to maintain that streak through a continuing series of eminently winnable Premier League matches through the end of February (when the Champions League returns as well, interspersed with back-to-back trips to Manchester).
Southampton team news: After a summer spent staunchly hanging on to their best players, Saints have managed to put together a surprisingly disappointing season. On Wednesday, they were humiliated at home by Leicester City; though Conte expects the visitors to bounce back and show plenty of resolve after that 4-1 defeat.
“For sure tomorrow the game will be very difficult for us because Southampton are a really good team, they have young players with a great future.
“I would prefer Southampton to have won their game against Leicester than lose in that way at home. I heard the post-match interview from Pellegrino and we must pay great attention. They are very fast and play well on the counter attack with (Charlie) Austin, (Nathan) Redmond and (Dusan) Tadic. They have a lot of good players, (Shane) Long and (Sofiane) Boufal as well.
“My expectation is for us to suffer, I have this sensation, so we must pay great attention. When you play after a bad defeat, especially at home, there is great attention of the coach and the club because they don’t want to continue a bad run. They want to give a good answer against a strong team like Chelsea.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Southampton have only four wins on the season and only two in the last three months, but with a negative goal difference of just 6, they will undoubtedly not make it easy for Chelsea.
Previously: Chelsea won this fixture last season 4-2, as we closed in on the title. Chelsea’s fourth and Costa’s second was one of the nicest goals we scored all season.