There are six matches remaining the Premier League season, but it already feels like the end can’t come soon enough for Chelsea supporters.
Match number 33 takes Chelsea to the south coast to face Southampton. After two consecutive defeats, the Saints are desperately in need of points to aid their chances of staying in the Premier League for next season, while the Blues desperately need to stop their horrible 2018, with just six total victories in the calendar year.
If this narrative sounds familiar, it is. Just last week, Chelsea welcomed West Ham to Stamford Bridge for a match in which West Ham were in need of points. Whilst Chelsea did take the lead in the first half, they squandered a lot of chances, and in the second half, their old nemesis Javier Hernandez made them pay for not killing off the match.
While it’s still mathematically possible for Chelsea to qualify for next season’s Champions League with a top-four finish, it would require the miracle to trump all miracles. More concerning for the Blues is that it is now more likely that Arsenal could catch them for a fifth-place finish.
It’s difficult, though, to predict Southampton’s team for Saturday’s match. Southampton had often been lining up in a back three this season, but with Jack Stephens suspended after his sending off against Arsenal last week, Mark Hughes may be forced to change the team’s shape.
Regardless of shape, Southampton’s biggest weakness is scoring goals. Charlie Austin leads the team with 7 goals this season, but his counterparts Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini have managed just 6 goals combined, and there aren’t many coming from midfield.
But if Chelsea needs any reminder that they need to stay focused, Southampton’s match against Arsenal should be required viewing. While Arsenal picked up the 3-2 win, Southampton created a few really good chances from Arsenal defensive errors and was unlucky to not get a point at the Emirates.
These two teams will meet again in two weeks at Wembley for the FA Cup Semi-final, and while Saturday’s match by itself may not impact who wins that match, it might determine which side feels more confident, as a win for either team on Saturday would provide a big confidence boost.