A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip to Southampton.
Chelsea travel down to the south coast this Sunday for their Premier League clash against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium. And after victories over Brighton and away at Lille in the last week, Frank Lampard’s team were surely in a buoyant mood.
Having had a reasonably tough start to their league campaign this season, The Blues are in the early throes of a run of more winnable matches. After all, only bottom club Watford have a worse home record than The Saints, who do look defensively vulnerable.
This was supposed to be an indifferent season for Chelsea. With the transfer ban, losing their talisman and main 2 strikers from last season, then appointing a relatively novice manager, who would be forced to regularly include youth team products in part to a lengthy injury list, The Blues could have very easily slipped into a very uphill season.
However, under Frank, the introduction of a huge number of former academy players could not have gone smoother. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and especially Fikayo Tomori have been such starring lights in these early stages that they have been called up in to the England national squad for next week’s 2 European Championship qualifiers. And richly deserved.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Between Frank and all his coaches, especially Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, the youth to first team production line is in full flow. They are closing in on having a full XI made up of the club’s own products.
For their trip on Sunday, The Blues are still without long term absentee Ruben Loftus-Cheek, while Antonio Rudiger and Emerson Palmieri are also unavailable. N’Golo Kante came through the match in northern France Ok, but the question will be whether he can cope with another 90 minutes just 4 days later.
Otherwise, Frank should have plenty of options throughout his team. But with another international break and Chelsea’s next match not for another 2 weeks, the manager will likely go for his best starting line up.
The question is likely to be more about which formation the manager will opt for. Like Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton have regularly played with a back 3 this season. At Molineux, Frank matched their hosts with a back 3 and we all know how that finished.
Add to that the only choice for the manager for his left sided defender is the more effective in attack Marcos Alonso, and we are likely to see the use of wing backs.
Ralph Hasenhuttl is only missing alleged former Chelsea target Cedric Soares and winger Moussa Djenepo, and will have recently rested Che Adams as an attacking option. However Danny Ings is no shrinking violet, especially against “the top 6”.
Although the home side will be expecting to have some chances against Chelsea’s youthful central defence, The Blues’s excellent run at St Mary’s Stadium should continue this weekend.
And even if this match turns into a tight, more attritional affair, Chelsea have shown in their last 2 fixtures that they can still come out on top.
A 5th consecutive victory for The Blues at Southampton will elevate the club up into the top 4 and that would be an incredible return ahead of the league taking a week off.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue