Matches on or just before transfer deadline day tend to become little more than afterthoughts and sideshows, but in case anyone’s interested (and if I can get around to writing this), Chelsea are in fact scheduled for some actual football tonight, down on the South Coast, against a customarily weird Southampton side.
It’s yet another game we should be expected to win easily — we won here 6-0 just a few months ago, back in April — but Saints have actually put together a few decent results since their opening day capitulation against Tottenham. Late-late shows agains Leeds United and Leicester City earned them four points, and while they lost to Manchester United over the weekend, they did so by the narrowest of margins.
Thomas Tuchel expects another high intensity game, and that could be a problem with a fairly trim-looking squad coming off of a rousing, but effortful win on Saturday, playing with just 10 for over an hour in the London “heat” (it’s all relative).
Date / Time: Tuesday, August 30, 2022, 19.45 BST; 2:45pm EDT; 12:15am IST (next day)
Venue: St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, England
Referee: Michael Oliver (on pitch); Michael Salisbury (VAR) — so come and dance with me!
Forecast: Warm and breezy
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); none (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Southampton team news: Though they’ve spent about £50m (total and net) this summer, so far they’re basically the same old weirdly inconsistent Southampton as last season, sometimes capable of decent play and sometimes capable of utter collapse.
Half of that total has been spent on two Manchester City academy graduates (see, it’s not just Chelsea!), goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu and midfielder Roméo Lavia. Bazunu, 20, has started every game so far, with former first-choice Fraser Forster released, as has 18-year-old Lavia. Most of the rest was spent on another 20-year-old, Armel Bella-Kotchap from Bochum, who has slotted in at center back, while Bordeaux teenager Sékou Mara has seen action at center-forward (with veteran Shane Long gone as well). Midfielder Joe Aribo is another new addition, from Rangers, though at 25, he’s practically ancient. Clearly, Southampton have a plan.
Saints’ only notable injury is a major and sad one, with former Chelsea Academy Player of the Year Tino Livramento not expected to return until after the World Cup following ACL replacement surgery in April.
View from the enemy: St Mary’s Musings
Chelsea team news: Kalidou Koulibaly’s back from his one-match suspension, but now it’s Conor Gallagher’s turn to serve one. N’Golo Kanté is also out and Mateo Kovačić is not quite fit to start yet, so Thomas Tuchel, who is also back from a touchline ban, is facing a bit of midfield selection dilemma.
Save for the international break at the end of September, this game signals the start of twice-weekly games until the World Cup. Squad rotation will be key if we are to push for any trophies this season.
Previously: The 6-0 was fun; the 3-1 at the Bridge less so, the 1-1 in the League cup even less so. Overall, we’re unbeaten in five against Southampton in all competitions.