What individual battles could shape the overall result at Stamford Bridge in tonight's Premier League fixture?
Southampton go into the game potentially anxious after being defeated 4-1 at home by The Blues in the FA Cup recently and are missing key men Jose Fonte and Adam Lallana through knee injuries. Promising left back Luke Shaw may also be out of contention for this big fixture so Danny Fox may get a start.
For Chelsea they must decide whether to hand John Terry a start or not and choose between Demba Ba and Fernando Torres for the clash.
But what are the key individual battles ahead of the clash?
Juan Mata v Morgan Schneiderlin
The Spaniard has arguably been Chelsea’s best player this season while Southampton’s French destroyer has definitely been theirs. His ability at winning the ball in the heart of the park has been pivotal to staying above the drop-zone in recent weeks and will be more important than ever when faced with Mata. He tore Saints apart in the FA Cup and any success at The Bridge will rely on Schneiderlin’s ability to get close to Mata at all times.
Gary Cahill v Rickie Lambert
Cahill missed the resounding win over Stoke as he was attending to the birth of his baby boy but he can expect no paternity leave in this fixture up against Southampton’s bullish striker. In fact none of Chelsea’s defenders can expect an easy ride as Lambert often pulls off on to the full-back where he can dominate aerially so Ashley Cole can also expect a tough game.
David Luiz v Gaston Ramirez
In the absence of Lallana the Uruguayan has become Southampton’s go-to guy for creativity and whether playing in defence or midfield Luiz will need to be wary of his talents. In midfield he cannot afford to get caught in the tackle by the surprisingly strong Saint and if featuring at the back his ventured movement forward should be tempered as Ramirez has the intelligence and ability to run beyond Lambert.
Fernando Torres v Maya Yoshida
Ba played against Stoke at the weekend so the suggestion would be that Rafa will give Fernando the nod for Southampton and Yoshida, in the absence of Fonte, will likely be tasked with keeping him quiet. If Torres can remember just how good a player he is then exposing this Premier League novice should not be a problem.
Eden Hazard v Nathaniel Clyne
Hazard has been in decent touch recently and scored a worldy against Stoke last weekend. Southampton can call upon Clyne again now after his most recent injury trouble and this battle down Southampton’s right side should be interesting. Clyne has the pace to keep up with Hazard but must avoid the temptation to be drawn to narrow by the Belgian’s trickery; which would leave acres pf space behind him for Cole or Torres to exploit.
Frank Lampard v Jack Cork could also prove to be a significant battle during this fixture but what do you think?
What are the key battles at The Bridge?