After finding their feet again with a morale-boosting FA Cup win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton soon returned to normality with a sixth straight league loss. With a 9-0 shellacking courtesy of Manchester United in that collection of results, too, it would be fair to say that the pressure is well and truly on the once-venerated Ralph Hasenhüttl. Can the Austrian turn things around? He’ll need to start doing so with a home result against fellow ex-Bundesliga coach Thomas Tuchel.
With the Blues in an impressive run under the German, though, can Ralph get his Saints marching on again after a massive stuttering start to 2021?
Southampton will come into the game with all of the energy they need to start making changes – the only way is up from their present position. Once seen as a rough outside title contender, or even a UEFA Champions League qualifier, Saints are now 13th in the table and have lost six on the spin in the league.
What is worse, the goals have dried up massively – just 30 goals in 23 games is not a good return on investment. Fitness, though, is returning for key players, which could help to see Saints scoring again. Danny Ings will be hopefully fully fit now after a period of getting back into top shape. Expect some changes, though, with Hasenhüttl looking to use a blend of youth and experience to get results with a squad that looks shorn of depth.
Blues meanwhile come into the game on a run of four wins in their last six, looking far more impressive since they suffered from poor form after the Frank Lampard era came to an end. Tuchel has taken the Blues back into UEFA Champions League contention, too, with five straight wins – including five clean sheets since his arrival – marking a brighter future for the Blues.
Fitness, too, is returning to key team members and Tuchel is arguably picking from the fittest and most in-form Chelsea team that has been available to him since his recent arrival. They will also be able to call on a group of recently in-form forwards, with the likes of Timo Werner finally returning to their true form.
This should be a game of high intensity, with Saints needing a result and Chelsea looking to keep the pressure up on Liverpool in fourth spot. However, this could be a game where two sides who need a result over a performance can cancel one another out.
Expect a tight, fraught affair; Tuchel has removed the randomity from the way that Chelsea play, and are far less likely to suffer from meltdowns and individual mistakes. Southampton will come out and attack from the off, looking to prove that recent form can be improved upon.
However, expect Chelsea to have too many goals in their team to struggle here. They’ve looked good under Tuchel in terms of their team shape and solidity, and should have too much to avoid a scoring battle with Southampton.
Result: 3-1 Chelsea
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