Big Match Focus: Chelsea v Southampton

Chelsea’s only hope of winning silverware this season comes in the form of the FA Cup, though first the Blues have to get past a Southampton side with nothing to lose in Sunday’s semi-final at Wembley Stadium.

FA Cup
Date: 22 April 2018
Semi-final
Kick-off: 15:00 local time/21H00 HKT
Venue: Wembley Stadium

Referee: M. Atkinson
Assistants: S. Bennett, S. Child
Fourth official: N. Swarbrick

Head-to-head summary

TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Chelsea 71 34 18 19
Southampton 71 19 18 34

Previous encounter

Southampton 2-3 Chelsea (14 April 2018) Premier League

Saints scorers: D. Tadić (21′), J. Bednarek (60′)
Chelsea scorers: O. Giroud (70′) (78′), E. Hazard (75′)

Players to watch

After his recent brace against Southampton as a late substitute helped earn Chelsea a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Southampton, Olivier Giroud should be buzzing with confidence in London. The France striker lifted the trophy in 2014, 2015 and 2017 with Arsenal and knows what it takes to win the prestigious competition. With reports suggesting he may start alongside Álvaro Morata on Sunday, the 31-year-old could be a dangerous presence for the Saints to deal with.

Shane Long has often been the preferred starter for Southampton with his high work-rate a major reason for that. Yet, his return of just two Premier League goals all season has been underwhelming and it could be the more prolific Charlie Austin that comes into the fold. The 28-year-old goal-poacher has seven goals to his name in all competitions and has a minutes-per-goals-scored ratio that is up there amongst the best in the English top flight.

Team form and manager quotes

Despite question marks surrounding the future of Antonio Conte next season, the Blues still have an outside chance of catching Tottenham Hotspur in fourth spot and come into Sunday’s game having recorded two tough away wins over Southampton and Burnley in the league.

Having lost the FA Cup final 2-1 to Arsenal in 2016/17, the Italian played down speculation about his future and insisted his focus was on winning the semi-final.

He said: “A second final in a row would be great for our fans. It’s not my task to judge the season. I have to work and try to transfer my enthusiasm to the team.

“Sometimes I am good, sometimes I am not so good.”

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Meanwhile, Saints boss Mark Hughes want to use the tie against the Blues to build some momentum in their desperate bid to avoid relegation from the English top flight. Currently, the outfit from Hampshire are in 18th place with a four point deficit behind Swansea City in 17th.

The club come into the game having drawn 0-0 with Leicester City last Thursday. The Welshman told reporters: “(Leicester) was a difficult game for us and we need to make sure that the physicality and athleticism is there against the top teams. We won’t be making radical changes, but we need to use our resources in the best way we can.

“We are trying to build some momentum and an FA Cup semi-final could be good for us with that in mind.”

Team news

Chelsea left wing-back Marcos Alonso is out with suspension as he serves a second of a three game ban for a stamp on Shane Long on 14 April.

Danny Drinkwater is doubtful with a groin problem while David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu remain out with knee and ankle injuries respectively.

Meanwhile, the Saints have virtually a clean bill of health though Hughes says he may ring the changes following the 0-0 draw with Leicester in their previous outing.

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