Southampton v Chelsea
Live on Sky Sports 1
The Saints are back up to fourth after Friday's 3-1 win at Crystal Palace made it back-to-back victories so far over Christmas - a good response to their difficult run from late November where they took only one point out of 15 in the Premier League and were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Sheffield United.
Ronald Koeman has a strong enough squad that he was able to leave Dusan Tadic, Victor Wanyama, Shane Long and Matt Targett on the bench for the Palace game and they will all be in contention for a starting berth.
Ryan Bertrand has been an ever-present at left-back but is on loan from Chelsea and ineligible for this match. That is a blow as attacking full-backs are a key part of Koeman's game plan.
Jose Mourinho was unhappy that the fixture list added difficulty to the Christmas schedule for Chelsea, with a Monday-night game at Stoke followed by a quick turnaround to face West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Friday, but the league leaders have responded well with a pair of 2-0 wins.
It was interesting that Mourinho made only one change for the West Ham game, bringing in Oscar in place of John Obi Mikel, and he might keep a settled line-up again assuming everyone is fit to play.
Diego Costa could not manage a quick succession of games early in the season but he has played three times in eight days twice in the past month and there seems no reason why he should not lead the line after being among the late substitutions on Friday.
It is clear that Southampton have holes in their form after their recent run of defeats against big-six teams but what is perhaps less well appreciated is that Chelsea's record in this type of match-up is also open to question.
Mourinho's side have won only one out of four away to top-half teams, giving them a points average in that category that is lower than the two Manchester clubs, Tottenham and even Sunderland. Chelsea have not kept a clean sheet in compiling a W1 D2 L1 record in that category, although on the plus side they have scored in each game as well.
That is only a small sample of matches and Chelsea clearly have the quality to improve that record in the remainder of the season, but Southampton's poor form in big games is longer-lasting and therefore more questionable.
Last season, when they finished eighth under Mauricio Pochettino, the Saints had a W1 D4 L7 record against the big six and this season (even with some of the big six underperforming) they have lost five out of five.
That makes 12 defeats out of 17 in all (five defeats out of eight at home) and, crucially, their sole win in that category since the start of last season (1-0 at Liverpool) came on the only occasion when they managed to keep a clean sheet.
Last season Southampton conceded three goals in both games against Chelsea (losing 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and 3-0 at St Mary's) and there is no doubt Mourinho's side have improved since the last meeting on New Year's Day.
The biggest question mark is that Mourinho often adopts a safety-first approach away to the better teams and seems happy enough to take a draw, but there is no doubt Chelsea are good enough to win.
In 2014 Chelsea have scored in 32 Premier League games and won 27 of them, which indicates a strong win chance unless Southampton can shut them out. With the Saints' poor record of clean sheets against top opposition, Chelsea rate good value at 1.8910/11..
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
There is little in Southampton's record to indicate they will shut out Chelsea and Mourinho's side have conceded in all four away games against top-half opposition, which points to a scoring game on both sides.
Southampton's home matches average exactly three goals per game, with six out of nine over 2.5 goals, and it is notable that Chelsea have a higher rate of high-scoring games on the road (the average is 3.11 goals per game) - they have kept only two clean sheets in nine away matches and five have gone over 2.5 goals.
The possibility of over 2.5 goals seems underestimated at 2.226/5.
Both Teams To Score
The figures indicate both teams are vulnerable defensively in this type of match-up and Yes at 2.01/1 in the Both Teams To Score is a bet to consider. It looks the next-best bet after a Chelsea win.
Back Chelsea to beat Southampton at 1.8910/11 (1pt)