Chelsea will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League when they entertain Southampton in today’s fixture.
Antonio Conte’s side progressed to the FA Cup final with a morale-boosting 4-2 win over Tottenham on Saturday.
Despite failing to play their best football, they were clinical with the chances created and managed to convert – something that will give them added encouragement ahead of a tough run-in between now and the middle of May.
Defeats against Crystal Palace and more recently Manchester United have caused doubt to settle amongst some critics who suggest the title race isn’t over yet.
Tottenham are four points behind and will face a tough trip to Selhurst Park on Wednesday – the constant battle for points at the top is an intriguing one.
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Chelsea team news
Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill has returned to full training after a bout of gastroenteritis and could feature from the offset if passed fit to play.
Conte is expected to recall both Diego Costa and Eden Hazard back into the starting line-up after both made substitute appearances on the weekend. The Blues don’t have any further injury concerns, though it would be understandable if David Luiz (knock) was rested given how he clearly hasn’t been playing at 100% for a few weeks now.
If so, a back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, Nathan Aké and the returning Cahill would most likely start.
During his press conference, Conte revealed the importance of a win cannot be understated in this fixture but Southampton will not be an easy opponent. In their last ten league games, Chelsea have conceded ten goals and questions are continually being asked as to when teams will regularly challenge their defensive flaws.
“It is important for us to win and look at ourselves, but we all know that it won’t be easy because Southampton is a very good team with a good coach and good players.”
Southampton team news
Oriol Romeu, who was at Chelsea for four years, is available to face his former side having completed a two-match suspension.
The Spanish defensive-minded midfielder has excelled this season and Claude Puel was praised him for his work too.
N’Golo Kanté won the league’s Player of the Year award on Sunday and Puel has publicly stated his belief that there’s not too much difference between the two players.
“For me, N’Golo has the same qualities and the same play as Romeu with us. He is an important player. Without Kanté, it’s difficult for Chelsea and without Romeu, it’s difficult for us. I think he’s not far from Kanté. We have seen the quality of his game since the beginning of the season.”
With just under 2,500 minutes of Premier League football this term, Romeu is Southampton’s second highest outfield player in terms of total league appearances – only Nathan Redmond has featured more than the Spaniard so far.
Virgil van Dijk (foot) is a notable absence at the back, whilst Sam McQueen (groin), Matt Targett (hamstring) and striker Charlie Austin (shoulder) are all long-term absentees.
Southampton have had ten days to prepare for this fixture and as a result, their players will be feeling fresh.
It’ll be interesting to see how this match unfolds, especially because there is plenty at stake. Southampton are aiming for a top-eight finish whilst Chelsea need a victory to maintain pressure on Spurs, who continue to chase them.by