Chelsea head into their Premier League fixture with Southampton on Tuesday evening looking to make further progress up the standings. At a time when Chelsea sit in sixth position on the back of the weekend’s win over Leicester City, 14th-placed Southampton can move ahead of their next opponents with success at St Mary’s. Having been forced to sit in the stands due to his one-game touchline ban, Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel was provided with a different perspective when it came to assessing his players at the weekend. The needless dismissal of Conor Gallagher would have infuriated him, but the response with 10 men would have provided reassurance about the character of a squad in transition.
More fresh faces will be coming through the door at Chelsea over the coming days, most likely starting with Wesley Fofana from Leicester now that a fee has allegedly been verbally agreed. However, Tuchel was desperate to see improvements from his current crop, with Raheem Sterling delivering his first two goals in a Chelsea shirt and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy making up for his error against Leeds United in the previous game. In the short term, Chelsea need to ensure that a five-point gap to leaders Arsenal does not get any wider, although Tuchel will want his players to focus on one match at a time as they bid to cut out errors and be more clinical in the final third. As far as Southampton are concerned, they were outstanding against Manchester United for large periods of their meeting at St Mary’s at the weekend.
However, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side were ultimately made to pay for squandering numerous opportunities as Bruno Fernandes scored the only goal of the game. Having bounced back from a 4-1 thrashing to Tottenham Hotspur in their opening game with four points from three matches, the Austrian will be relatively satisfied with his team’s response. That said, there are early signs that Hasenhuttl and the Saints have pulled off some superb business in the transfer market this summer with defender Armel Bella-Kotchap and midfielder Romeo Lavia both impressing thus far. With one or two more fresh faces likely to follow over the coming days, supporters will be far more optimistic about the trajectory than they may have been several months ago. Chelsea will be without Gallagher as the midfielder serves his one-match ban for two yellow cards versus the Foxes.
Kalidou Koulibaly will return from his own suspension and that could lead to Tuchel reverting to a back three, with Trevoh Chalobah retaining his spot on the right-hand side. Marc Cucurella may be given a rest, allowing Ben Chilwell to return at left wing-back, but Mateo Kovacic may again be left to make an impact from the substitutes’ bench having made his comeback from a knee issue at the weekend. Providing that there are no injury issues from the weekend, Hasenhuttl will give consideration to selecting the same Southampton XI. Bella-Kotchap sustained some kind of muscle issue early in the second half against United, but the centre-back was able to complete the game. Stuart Armstrong is an option on either flank if Hasenhuttl opts to introduce some fresh legs into his team.
Southampton possible starting lineup:
Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Salisu, Djenepo; Ward-Prowse, Lavia; A.Armstrong, Aribo, Elyououssi; Adams
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Chalobah, Silva; Koulibaly; James, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Chilwell; Mount, Sterling; Havertz