Antonio Conte’s may well have waved the white flag in terms of defending the Premier League title this season after his Chelsea side lost to West Ham last weekend but they bounced back in the best possible way on Tuesday with a win over Huddersfield.
Victory in Yorkshire meant that although they may not have a say in the title race they have at least managed to keep a buffer between themselves and the teams that are currently competing for fourth in the table and the final Champions League spot.
One that with four teams currently battling for fourth means it is a scrap that Chelsea will want to stay well clear off that and the best way to do that is to keep picking up wins and ultimately maintain that distance between them and the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool.
Today they play host to a Southampton side who were soundly beaten in midweek by Leicester. A 4-1 defeat is bad enough but the fact that former Saints boss Claude Puel was the man who masterminded the win for the Foxes can only rub salt in the wounds.
It was certainly the supporting cast who did their bit for Chelsea on Tuesday night as Tiemoue Bakayoko, Willian and Pedro all managed to get on the score sheet as the Blues wrapped up a comfortable away win. Huddersfield may have got a late consolation but the goal would do nothing to change the outcome.
It was a marked improvement in terms of performance after drawing a blank away at West Ham seven days ago, after going behind to Marko Arnautovic’s early strike for the Hammers, the West London outfit failed to break down a resolute resistance from their West Ham counterparts.
Southampton have only picked up two points from a possible 12 on offer and have only one of their last six. They were somewhat unfortunate not to have got the better of Arsenal last Sunday especially after going ahead in the first few minutes through Charlie Austin’s well worked goal.
The problem though it was the perfect example of being punished for not taking opportunities when they present themselves, they had Arsenal on the ropes but then failed to land the knockout blow. They would be subsequently punished for that when Oliver Giroud scored a late header as the Gunners played their get out of jail free card.
They were punished again on Wednesday night but this time for poor defending as Leicester made easy work of them at St Mary’s. Riyad Mahrez’s goal which opened the scoring for Leicester highlighted this the most as he was given the freedom of the pitch to run at Southampton’s back line and slot home from range.
That was a moment of quality from Algerian but there was little on display from Southampton as they were made to look very ordinary indeed with the Saints now sitting 11th in the table but approaching a fork in the road in terms of their season.
They are four points off of Everton in 10th but at the same time they are four points clear of West Brom in 17th. They cannot afford to be dragged further into the mire with so many teams scrapping in the lower reaches of the Premier League table.
It only takes a couple more defeats and their plight could be a lot worse off, did Wednesday’s result perhaps prove that the grass is not always greener on the other side. The pressure is not quite on Mauricio Pellegrino just yet but if they don’t get a decent points haul over Christmas then it could well be.
Unfortunately for Southampton I do not seem them getting anything from this encounter at Stamford Bridge this afternoon as Chelsea will pick up maximum points to keep that distance between them and the chasing pack while also putting the pressure on Manchester United. A home win for me.
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— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) December 15, 2017