Southampton’s mid-season recovery has seen them rise to sixth, and they could end the weekend in the top five if they overcome a Chelsea team continuing to improve under Guus Hiddink in the Premier League.
The Saints have won five out of their last six games to transform their campaign, which has gone from mid-table mediocrity to a European push in the space of the past six weeks.
Perhaps even more impressively, Ronald Koeman’s side have kept a clean sheet in each of their past six games and haven’t conceded a goal since the 1-0 defeat at Norwich in early January; a sturdy defence was at the heart of Southampton’s success last season and it has been the bedrock of their recent good run.
The 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture stands out as one of the most impressive results of Koeman’s reign, and a repeat result this weekend will have Southampton fans dreaming of another European finish.
Chelsea cruised into the FA Cup quarter-finals last weekend with a 5-1 win over a depleted Manchester City side, and now their focus shifts to climbing out of the bottom-half of the Premier League.
They remain unbeaten in the English top-flight since the departure of former boss Jose Mourinho, but the six draws in Guus Hiddink’s ten games in charge have held back their progress up the league table and they remain stuck in 12th.
The Blues could rise to tenth with a victory this weekend, and they have a good record away at Southampton; they have lost just twice there since the turn of the century.
Jay Rodriguez and Florian Gardos are the only players to miss out through injury for the hosts, for whom Ronald Koeman has an otherwise fully-fit squad to pick from.
John Terry is doubtful for the visitors with a hamstring strain, and Chelsea are also without long-term absentees Kurt Zouma and Radamel Falcao.
League Positions: Southampton – 6th (40 pts); Chelsea – 12th (33 pts)
Previous Meeting: Chelsea 1-3 Southampton – October 3, 2015
League Form: Southampton – WWWDWW; Chelsea – DDWDDW
Key Players: Southampton – Fraser Forster; Chelsea – Willian
Shoot Says: Southampton 1-1 Chelsea