Southampton v Chelsea
Saturday 20 February, 12:30
Live on BT Sport 1
So far, so good for Tuchel
It’s fair to say it’s been a strong start for Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea manager.
In the German’s first six games, the Blues have won five and drawn one, conceding just once – that a comical own goal at Sheffield United.
As a result, Chelsea have flown up the table and into the top four, a position which had been looking increasingly unlikely under Frank Lampard.
The improvement should not come as any real surprise.
Chelsea clearly have a talented squad which should have been doing much better. Lampard’s tactical acumen left a lot to be desired but the experience of a proven top-level boss has clearly righted the ship which is now firmly back on course in terms of its season targets.
Tuchel’s arrival and the related improvement has even sparked talk of a potential Champions League run and it is worth noting ahead of this game that a trip to Bucharest to face La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid looms on Tuesday.
It is therefore unlikely to be Chelsea’s strongest XI on show at St Mary’s. it is certainly hard to see Tammy Abraham, who limped off against Newcastle on Monday, starting, while it may also be wise to allow Thiago Silva extra recovery time after his own injury issue.
Chelsea, who are 1.784/5 to win the game, probably won’t need their full-strength side out given the form of their hosts.
Woeful run for Saints
Southampton – 5.49/2 shots – are on a club-record run of six straight league defeats and they’ve conceded at least twice in five of those games. It would simply be wrong of me not to point out one of them was the 9-0 loss at Old Trafford.
With Saints starting this match in 13th position, it’s hard to remember they were actually top in November. They’ve won just three of 15 since.
Injuries have certainly played their part in that slump, as Ralph Hasenhuttl was only too happy to point out at Thursday’s press conference, when he bemoaned the latest addition to the treatment room, Kyle Walker-Peters. The full-back will miss this contest.
Theo Walcott has been missed in recent weeks although at least Hasenhuttl has youngster Alex Jankewitz available again after suspension. He was the man who sparked that 9-0 defeat with his second-minute red card.
What The Stats Say: An Opta-based look at the weekend’s Premier League games
To be fair, Southampton played pretty well in the first half last week at home to Wolves but their standards slipped after the interval and two penalty decisions which went against them proved highly significant.
How to back the Blues at odds-against
With the level of opposition rising here, I don’t see their poor run ending and I’m looking for a way to side with Chelsea.
Of course, the 1.784/5 about them winning is an obvious option but you can raise that to 2.0421/20 by backing the Blues to win in a game featuring under 3.5 goals.
No game under Tuchel has featured four goals yet, with five of the six seeing under 2.5. Also, it’s easy to envisage Chelsea managing the game efficiently in the second half if they do get ahead, with some players being withdrawn with that Madrid game in mind.
Under 2.5 goals on its own here is 1.9720/21, while Chelsea/Under 2.5 goals is a tempting 3.02/1.
However, I prefer the safety net an extra goal provides – it allows Southampton to score and the bet to stay alive.
The case for a Romeu card
That looks a decent way to approach the game but my top pick comes in the ‘to be booked’ market where there’s a lot to like about former Chelsea man Oriol Romeu, even at 15/8.
The Spanish midfielder felt let down by Chelsea when basically told to find a new club in 2015 and his disciplinary record against them since reflects a simmering resentment.
Romeu has been carded in seven of 12 appearances against his old team – and one of those was a four-minute cameo. That card tally is his most against any one opponent.
Looking at the most recent meetings, Romeu has been booked in four of his last five starts v Chelsea, including the reverse fixture in October. That is one of seven cards in 20 games so far this season.
With only two Premier League players having made more tackles than Romeu, it’s not hard to see why he attracts referees’ attention.
The man in charge here is Anthony Taylor. Given he’s below the cards-per-game average for the season, the appointment could have been better but he did book Romeu when their paths last crossed.
Hit the target with Vestergaard
I’ll finish by mentioning some possible value in the shots on target market.
Jannik Vestergaard delivered a shot on target in six of his last 11 games yet he’s out at 13/5 to do so again in this contest.
Yes, Chelsea have been pretty tight at the back of late but Vestergaard managed to land this in the recent home game with defensive kings Manchester City and also the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge.
He’s a big threat from set-pieces and with James Ward-Prowse providing some good delivery, Vestergaard looks a decent price.
Southampton have lost their last five home league games against Chelsea, their longest losing run against a specific opponent in their league history.
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