Under 2.5 goals is surely on the agenda when Southampton welcome Chelsea, argues Michael Lintorn...
"Chelsea have kept four Premier League clean sheets in a row on the road since replacing Jose Mourinho with Hiddink. Two of those clashes ended goalless, while another was 1-0."
Southampton 2.915/8 v Chelsea 2.767/4; The Draw 3.3512/5
The Premier League's form team will be up to fifth for at least 23 hours if they avoid defeat against the soon-to-be-dethroned champions. Having been as low as 13th a mere six games back, the Saints are suddenly threatening to both qualify for Europe again and outperform last term's seventh place.
It is an exceptional turnaround which, in case you somehow hadn't heard, has been built on the back of six successive clean sheets, with Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham among the sides to have failed to breach Fraser Forster since his return from long-term injury last month.
The England squad member and the defensive colleagues who have assisted his shutout streak are all expected to be available to face Chelsea. Even long-lost Florin Gardos and Jay Rodriguez are back in training, though this assignment will probably come too soon. Beyond that, only the suspended Victor Wanyama is set to miss out.
The Blues' domestic unbeaten run since bringing Guus Hiddink back for a second caretaker stint now stretches to a dozen outings and, better still, they have now won as many matches as they have drawn following twin 5-1 Stamford Bridge triumphs over Newcastle and Manchester City.
Despite the improvement - and in fairness it would have taken a spectacularly bad effort for them to have got any worse - they remain an unthinkably low 12th. The gap to sixth has at least shrunk to seven points, meaning that this is their big opportunity to go swinging at the team in possession.
Kurt Zouma and Radamel Falcao won't be fit to compete on the south coast, while John Terry is a doubt due to the hamstring injury suffered in the first half against the Magpies.
The mark of Ronald Koeman's managerial quality is how he fares against the best clubs and coaches in operation and in addition to his magnificent record against Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, losing just twice in 11 meetings with the likes of PSV, AZ Alkmaar and Southampton, he excels against Chelsea.
The Dutchman has opposed them four times and never been conquered, with his finest result yet coming in October when the Saints romped to a 3-1 victory in the capital. He has also prevailed in two of the three career collisions with his compatriot Hiddink in which he held home advantage.
Factor in how well his current employers have exploited that this season, collecting 13 points out of 15 against sides in Chelsea's position or lower at St Mary's, and the visitors' dismal run of two wins in ten Premier League away encounters and, even if you don't fancy the hosts outright at 2.915/8, you have to favour them draw no bet at 2.111/10. If the contest finishes level, you get your stake refunded.
Under 2.5 Goals
No matter how attractive a case can be constructed for backing Southampton, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that under 2.5 goals is the outstanding bet for this showdown at 1.774/5, which is a price a lot closer to the evens mark than this writer anticipated.
Koeman's men haven't conceded in a quite sensational six games and their guests have defied their 2015/16 travelling troubles to keep four Premier League clean sheets in a row on the road since replacing Jose Mourinho with Hiddink. Two of those clashes ended goalless, while another was 1-0.
Six of Southampton's last seven league fixtures produced under 2.5 goals, as did both of their 2014/15 skirmishes with Chelsea.
Back under 2.5 goals @ 1.774/5