Chelsea travel to Southampton in search of a fifth win in-a-row at St Mary's but with Mark Hughes taking charge of his first home game as the Saints boss, victory for Antonio Conte's charges looks far from assured...
“The saints have drawn or won more home games than they’ve lost this season and Chelsea have lost or drawn more than they’ve won away so I’m more than happy to chance Southampton with a goal start at odds against.”
Southampton v Chelsea
Saturday April 14, 12:30
Live on Sky Sports Football
Can Saints spark into life under Hughes?
With West Brom a lost cause and Stoke teetering on the brink, it's quite likely that either Southampton or Huddersfield will join the Baggies and the Potters in the Championship next season so with just six games to go, every match for the Saints is now vital. And this one is especially big given they still have to travel to Leicester and Everton and that their final home game at St Marys is against Manchester City.
This will be ex-Chelsea and Saints star Mark Hughes' fourth game in charge of the Sothampton and so far he's drawn a blank in the Premier League with two defeats in the capital to West Ham and Arsenal, following victory at Wigan in the FA Cup.
Southampton play Chelsea again next Sunday in the second FA Cup semi-final but three points on Saturday would be more welcome than a place in the final and after their encouraging performance at the Emirates last week, where they lost 3-2 to the Gunners, it's certainly not out of the question.
The Saints were blown away by a wounded West Ham side a fortnight ago and they were 3-0 down by the interval but they'll feel hard done by not to have left the Emirates with a point, after Danny Welbeck grabbed the winner in the 81st minute.
Chelsea continue to stutter
Chelsea have lost their way quite badly of late and it'll take a brave punter to pile in at odds-on here. They've now lost five of their last eight Premier League games, winning just two - at home to Crystal Palace and West Brom - and last week's 1-1 draw at home to West Ham doesn't offer up much encouragement.
As a measure of how poorly focused they are, following last week's match, Chelsea have now won only one of their last four Premier League games in which they've scored first. Prior to that, they'd won 22 games consecutively when scoring first!
Prospects of playing Champions League football next season look all but lost now and the manager, Antonio Conte, has already been matched at a low of [1.47] in the Next Manager To Leave Position market. Their current run reminds of the start they had to the 2015/16 season, on the last occasion they defended the Premier League title, and I wonder if the dressing room's been lost again? They need to get back on track again soon and I'm not sure they will here.
Saints record poor against the Blues but that could easily change
Southampton have won only one of their nine Premier League ties against Chelsea at St Mary's and the Blues have won the last four there, but they've never won five-in-a-row and I'm not sure they're in good enough form to achieve the feat on Saturday.
Those stats aren't very encouraging for the home side but Southampton looked a much improved unit last week and Hughes may just have kickstarted a rally strong enough to see them avoid the drop.
Southampton have only won three times at home so far this season but they don't get easily rolled over. They've lost six at St Mary's so far this season but they've only conceded more than two goals once (to Leicester in December) and they've drawn seven. They've managed to hold both Spurs and Arsenal to a draw at home and they'll be confident of avoiding defeat against a stuttering Chelsea side.
It'll be exactly a month since Sparky took change on Saturday but it will be the first time he's overseen a game at St Mary's. He'll get a great reception from the home crowd after getting them to the last four in the FA Cup and after last Sunday's promising performance at the Emirates and they might just prove hard to beat.
The saints have drawn or won more home games than they've lost this season and Chelsea have lost or drawn more than they've won away so I'm more than happy to chance Southampton with a goal start at odds against.
Topsy-turvy tussle could be on the cards
The Saints look much more of a goal threat under Hughes and if we disregard Chelsea's spineless surrender to Manchester City at the Etihad, when they just didn't even attempt to attack, prior to last week's 1-1 draw at home to West Ham, the last seven games involving the Blues have seen at least three goals scored.
I fancy goals, so if I were to play the Over/Under 2.5 goals market, I'd take the odds on about over and Yes in the Both teams to score market looks the way to go too but given Chelsea have won only one of their last four Premier League games in which they've scored first and that Southampton have failed to win any of their last six Premier League games when they've scored the opening goal, playing the Half Time/Full Time market could play dividends.
I was tempted to play Southampton/Draw, Southampton/Chelsea, Chelsea/Draw and Chelsea/Southampton but I'm just going to keep it simple and have two points on Southampton +1 at odds-against.
Mike Dean takes charge and he's one of the more animated and card-happy refs on the rota. He's averaged 3.64 yellow cards per game this season and he's also brandished three reds. The last of which being to Chelsea's Tiemoue Bakayoko when Chelsea lost 4-1 away at Watford in February.
Staked: 29.5 pts
Returned: 43.14 pts
P/L: +13.64 pts
Southampton +1 @ [2.08]