The Big Match Tactical View: Chelsea v Southampton

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte must choose between Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata
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Chelsea defeated the Saints 3-2 last weekend - can Mark Hughes' side get revenge? Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action...

"Mark Hughes has settled on a 3-4-3 system and will likely ‘match’ Chelsea’s formation again here, as he did last weekend with some initial success."

Chelsea v Southampton
Sunday 15:00, BT Sport 1.
Match Odds: Chelsea [1.5], Southampton [8.0], The Draw [4.8].

Can Chelsea defeat Southampton again?

Chelsea defeated Southampton 3-2 just last weekend, and are strong favourites going into this FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. With the Blues highly unlikely to finish inside the Champions League places, the FA Cup is an opportunity for Antonio Conte to save the club's season - and, perhaps, bow out on a high next month.

First, however, they must get past a Southampton side who have produced a couple of decent performances in recent weeks, and were unlucky to lose 3-2 to both Arsenal and Chelsea. Conte must also cope without left-wing-back Marcos Alonso, suspended for last weekend's stamp on Shane Long.

Conte seems likely to replace Alonso with Emerson Palmieri, signed from Roma in January, after he made his first Premier League start against Burnley in midweek. Davide Zappacosta, who deputised on the left earlier in the season, is another option.

Morata v Giroud

Conte has other decisions to make, with Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger battling it out for the left-sided centre-back role, and Cesc Fabregas likely to be picked over Tiemoue Bakayoko in the centre of midfield.

But his biggest call is upfront, where he surprisingly started both Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata for the trip to Burnley in midweek. That will surely change here, with Willian and Eden Hazard flanking one striker, so Conte must decide between Morata and Giroud. The latter seems the better bet here, especially after making such a fine impact as a substitute against Southampton last week - but perhaps Conte will consider him best as a Plan B.

Hughes to match Chelsea's system

Mark Hughes has settled on a 3-4-3 system and will likely 'match' Chelsea's formation again here, as he did last weekend with some initial success. Jan Bednarek, who was on the scoresheet at St Mary's against Chelsea, will continue in place of the suspended Jack Stephens.

Hughes will be keen for his wing-backs to push forward on the overlap when possible. Ryan Bertrand had a hand in Dusan Tadic's opener last weekend and Cedric Soares showed his attacking potential with an assist at the Emirates the previous weekend. Southampton might look to test Emerson in the opening stages.

Oriel Romeu has returned to the side and will command the midfield zone, with Pierre Hojbjerg likely to sit alongside him. James Ward-Prowse and Tadic will link midfield and attack, with the former's set-pieces likely to be one of the Saints' main routes to goal.

Upfront, Long has looked lively in recent weeks and will make runs into the channels here, encouraging Southampton to hit the ball - fittingly - long. But his teammates must support him with Ward-Prowse and Tadic making runs into goalscoring positions. Fabregas can switch off defensively, an create room for opposition midfielders to exploit.

I've been surprised by Southampton's performances against both Arsenal and Chelsea, and the 0-0 draw with Leicester suggests their defensive play has improved too. Chelsea are strong favourites but [1.5] looks too short, so I will lay Chelsea.

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Southampton led Chelsea 2-0 after an hour at St Mary’s last week and ended up losing the game 3-2 after an eight minute blast from the visitors left the Saints still looking for points in their quest for Premier League survival. They have only won one of their last eight games and that came in the quarter final of this completion at League One’s Wigan.

I tipped Southampton to get something out of the game last week and was very upset to see them blow a two goal lead, but I can’t find any reason to side with the Hampshire outfit this time around as Chelsea have now won back-to-back games on the road and are still trying to put pressure on fourth place Tottenham for that coveted Champions League slot.

Chelsea, the seven time winners of the competition, will be looking to secure their place in the final to avenge last year’s final defeat against Arsenal. While they won’t give up on the chase for fourth place until it is mathematically impossible, this has to be a priority for the club and I am sure they will be going all out to ensure they make the final.

Saints are four points away from safety in the Premier League and still have to play 17th place Swansea City, so while their survival looks bleak they are not dead and buried just yet and I think they will be more focused on their Premier League struggles than trying to beat a rejuvenated Chelsea side.

I think Chelsea win this comfortably, the Asian Handicap is set at 1.25 goals and I don’t see much downside in backing Chelsea +1.0 & 1.5 at anything better than [2.1].

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