Date: Saturday 9th April 2022
Venue: St Mary’s Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
I know, like most, you can’t always judge Chelsea by their last result because we can pull it out of the bag when we need to, but I had a bad feeling before the game Wednesday – and it turned out, it wasn’t just the covid.
Tuchel said we lost control in the ten minutes after going in front against Brentford last weekend, I’d suggest we never had any control of that game to start with. As magnificent as Rudiger’s goal was – and it was pretty special – it had all the impact of a stun gun. If we looked a little lethargic before the goal, we looked completely comatose after it. Of course, there were selection problems and I don’t even need to name and shame here, suffice to say Christian Eriksen thought it was his birthday.
Then onto midweek – there was a mixture of nerves and excitement ahead of Real Madrid, but too much expectation for me. Quite why anyone thought we’d just shrug off, not just a defeat to Brentford, but a defeat where we looked completely apathetic, was beyond me. The subsequent loss therefore, didn’t surprise me. Mendy’s stroll around the area with Benzema in that sort of form surprised me, the loss not so much.
So, with seven goals conceded in our last two games, this afternoon we travel to St. Mary’s to take on a Southampton side we only beat on penalties in the EFL Cup. We have a decent enough record against the Saints but then, we had a great one against Brentford until last weekend. Southampton came back from a goal-down against Leeds to take a point in their last game, their only point from the last 12 available, during which spell they’d conceded nine goals. They do have a habit of scoring at home though, last failing to do so back in September, so we won’t mind having Broja sitting this one out.
They may have lost the last 2 at home but prior to that, Southampton had lost just two of their last 18 at St Mary’s and they’ll be looking to expose any sign of lingering fragility in our defence this afternoon. I just hope we don’t make it as easy for them as we have for our last two opponents.
Going into today’s game, Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, says “I think Real Madrid are a very good side. Surprisingly good that they play in this way. First half the way they [Chelsea] played isn’t good enough for the Champions League. Thomas [Tuchel] knows this. The team also looked like they were affected by the home loss to Brentford. You could feel it. Not so confident with everything they do. It’s a good thing to see that the big teams are struggling sometimes. The bad thing is that this doesn’t happen very often. So, as I know them and how they work, he [Tuchel] will be very critical with them and will try to find a reaction. I always expect the most difficult opponent, even if they win this game 3-0 and have the next game against them, that’s important for them also, and a Premier League game against Chelsea is always important to us, especially as I know it’s not easy coming here. I think it will be a tough game, tough fight and we’ll try to make it as tough for them as possible.
You don’t have to look at the results before, there’s a lot of quality in the team and there’s a lot of success in the past and it’s normal that sometimes coming into games they are running a little against you. We mustn’t concentrate on Chelsea, we must concentrate on us and the last games where we did some good stuff against them. On this task we have to focus, on this task we have to concentrate and try to make it even better because the last game in the Cup was a draw and then we lost on a penalty shootout. But you could see that this was a way of football that worked against them. I think it was important in the last game against Leeds that we took something there. It was good that we showed a reaction. Take something there is okay for the team. I think we had good chances to win it, but in the end it was a tight game. And now we have two big teams at home at our ground and we’ve shown this season that we can play good games there and this is what we want to do.
It is not very often they lose three in a row, but this doesn’t help to think about these circumstances. You need to think about what you can do better and we prepare for this game. Normally good to have a whole week to look at our game and see them on Wednesday evening to find solutions. You have to have a perfect game when you play such teams, but it is possible. Our players know it. Like always, you are looking for the good things and things you can do better. Against such a team, you will be under pressure at times, and defending around your box. I see with Real Madrid how you can do it, they had only a few shots, but you need your goalkeeper to make saves, you need a perfect defence and to score against this team, you need quality up front in the right moments.”
Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, says “We are aware of it [back-to-back defeats] and we don’t like it. I don’t know if we are concerned but it is very untypical for us, we had a look into it and talked to the team about it. We constantly try to figure out how we can improve. We need to stop this kind of direction and development as soon as possible. The best possibility is tomorrow. It is very not like us to defend like this and concede so many goals. That’s why we didn’t see it coming because it was not the case before national break. These two matches within five days are very untypical and not easy to deal with because it does not fit to a pattern.
It is very untypical. There are a lot of reasons to lead to a thing like this. It is in a bad timing. It came out of nothing, literally out of nothing because nobody was here. Then we start losing matches and conceding goals but it’s challenging and it’s for us to find solutions and not complain too much, worry too much. We need to refocus and retrust in our strengths and keep belief. It is the moment to stick together and digest it. It took a while because it was two games, not only one loss. From today on we allow ourselves to focus on Southampton. They will not make us fall asleep, that is clear. Either they play a 4-4-2 with a heavy, high pressing line of six players which they did in the first match of the season, which they like to play and is their usual shape. Second game against us in the cup they played a back five which led to a man mark over the whole pitch, very demanding and intense game. We had some looks and watched some things of the two matches. Both matches were on a high level of quality, very intense and fluid from both sides. Very active. It is quite a challenge. The schedule is the schedule. We come from another game. It is demanding. Maybe it is good. There is no other way than accepting this physicality, otherwise we will be under the wheels.”
For Southampton, Lyanco is out, and Armando Broja is ineligible to face us, Shane Long (ankle) will be assessed and Alex McCarthy (hamstring) is pushing for a return.
For Chelsea, Ben Chilwell (knee), remains our long-term absentee, and Callum Hudson-Odoi (Achilles) also remains out. Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech face late fitness tests.
SOUTHAMPTON (Possible line-up): Forster; Livramento, Salisu, Bednarek, Walker-Peters; Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Diallo; S. Armstrong; Adams, A. Armstrong
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger, James; Kovacic; Jorginho, Alonso, Mount, Pulisic; Havertz
CURRENT FORM (ALL)
Southampton 1-1 Chelsea (20th February 2021)
- Southampton have one win from their last 12 Premier League games with Chelsea.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in eight trips to St Mary’s.
- Southampton have lost two consecutive league games at home.
- Chelsea could lose three successive matches in a single season for the first time since October 2002
- Southampton have scored in their previous 12 Premier League home games.
- Chelsea have conceded seven times in two games after letting in four goals in their nine previous matches in all competitions
- Southampton have kept just two clean sheets in their last 19 top-flight games.
- Chelsea have won 16 top-flight away games since February 2021.
Sportsmole: Southampton 1-3 Chelsea