The Premier League is back with matchday 24 and Graham Potter’s struggling Chelsea host Southampton in the afternoon kickoff.
Chelsea are enduring a disappointing spell and were once again defeated in the midweek Champions League Round of 16 fixture against Borussia Dortmund thanks to Karim Adeyemi’s wonder goal in the second half. The defeat in Germany means Potter’s have won just two of their last 14 games in all competitions. Potter’s men find themselves in 10th and the pressure continues to mount on Graham Potter and the backroom staff as they face a race against time to turn their fortunes around and start winning games. The transfer window saw Todd Boehly spend an excess of 400 million pounds on new players and they are still finding their feet in the Premier League.
Southampton have also been in the news this week as they sacked their manager Nathan Jones, just 3 months into his tenure as the Saints’ boss, after last weekend’s 2-1 loss against 10 men Wolverhampton Wanderers who came from behind to take all 3 points. The Welshmen lost nine out of the fourteen games he was in charge of the Saints and now the squad will travel to West London without a permanent manager after the Board failed to convince ex-Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch to take over and replace Nathan Jones.
When & Where?
Date: 18th February 2022.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT.
Venue: Stamford Bridge.
Referee: David Coote.
Assistants: Nick Hopton, Timothy Wood.
Fourth Official: Darren Bond.
VAR: Robert Jones.
Assistant VAR: Nick Greenhalgh.
Graham Potter will have Wesley Fofana and Mateo Kovacic both available for the game at the weekend as the duo made their return to the squad and were benched in the midweek UCL clash. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who was dropped from the Champions League roster to accommodate Joao Felix, hasn’t been a part of the squad for the last two Premier League fixtures. The Gabonese international could make his return to the first team as the Blues look toothless in attack and lack a clinical finisher up top. Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic, Edouard Mendy and N’golo Kante will be unavailable for the Blues and will miss the game.
For the Saints, Kyle Walker-Peters could make his return to the squad after missing the previous two games with a hamstring injury. Valentino Livramento, Alex McCarthy and Juan Larios will all be unavailable for caretaker manager Ruben Selles. Arma Bella-Kotchap and Duja Caleta-Car were both dropped from the matchday squad last weekend and are expected to make their return to the first XI.
Chelsea have played well in their last four outings despite drawing three games and losing once. Draws against Liverpool, Fulham and West Ham United in their last three Premier League games have highlighted the same old problem the squad has which is having a clinical striker uptop. Kai Havertz has started all the games playing as the no.9 but the German hasn’t impressed playing in the role and has failed to convert the chances created by the team.
The no.9 problem at the club shows why Chelsea have scored just 23 goals in 22 games averaging just 1 goal per game which is quite underwhelming considering they have spent over 600 million pounds in the last two windows on new signings and are yet to find a solution to this problem.
Graham Potter may look to reinstate Aubameyang in the first team and rely on the striker’s goalscoring prowess in front of goal having scored thrice for the Blues already this season. The creativity of Joao Felix in between the opposition’s midfield and defensive lines and the explosive pace of Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke on either side of the 33-year-old will definitely help the former Gunner get back on the score sheet and make a statement against a struggling Southampton defence which has conceded the 2nd most goals in the league(40).
Southampton love playing against the Blues and hold a great record away from home with 3 wins in their last 4 visits to Stamford Bridge. The Saints were victorious in the reverse fixture earlier this season and this time they will be up against a depleted Chelsea side who have scored just 6 goals since November in all competitions. With the crucial 3 points at stake, both the struggling sides would want to get a win under their belt and the visitors in particular have a lot at stake as they sit rock bottom in the league table already 3 points off their relegation rivals.
The Portuguese loanee from Atletico Madrid has been in electric form forming a formidable duo with Kai Havertz uptop playing more as a no.10. His ability to drop in deep areas, intelligent runs off the ball, linking up play in between the lines and creativity has already left the Chelsea faithful in awe of the 23-year-old. Having scored against West Ham United last time out, Felix will want to increase his goal tally against the leaky Saints’ defence.
Chelsea predicted lineup vs Southampton: Kepa, James, Badiashile, Fofana, Cucurella, Enzo, Kovacic, Mudryk, Felix, Madueke, Aubameyang.
Southampton predicted lineup vs Chelsea: Bazunu, Walker-Peters, Salisu, Caleta-Car, Perraud, Diallo, Lavia, Walcott, Ward-Prowse, Alcaraz, Adams.