Saturday’s Premier League trip to Southampton is the start of a gruelling week for Chelsea in which they play four games in eight days in three different competitions.
Most Chelsea fans would expect an easy three points after the 5-1 win at St. Mary’s in January. But the Saints won’t be easy opponents. The last match against Southampton was a perfect example of Chelsea’s season – some brilliant attacking play saw The Blues go into half-time 2-0 up, but they couldn’t hold onto the comfortable lead and left disappointed with a 2-2 draw. And under Mauricio Pocchetino, they have played some attractive stuff, most notably beating Manchester City 3-1 at home.
But Benitez insists the fixture congestion is a good problem to have as it shows the team is progressing in different competitions, and he will be hoping for a win to put pressure on Man City in the race for 2nd place.
Predicting Benitez’s team selection is difficult at the best of times – to attempt to do so with so many games so close together is near to impossible. And Benitez confirmed that he wouldn’t be able to field a full strength team in each game. Eden Hazard picked up a knock on international duty with Belgium but isn’t thought to be serious. Gary Cahill and Ramires both missed their respective international fixtures through injury. They have been training but they may well be given some extra time and be used on Monday against Manchester United. Benitez also said he was happy with JT’s recovery from the knee injury that has prevented him from playing two games in quick succession.
If Frank Lampard scores, he will move just one goal behind Bobby Tambling’s record of 202 Chelsea goals.
The two teams have a relatively even record, historically. Chelsea have 38 wins with 27 draws and 28 wins for Southampton.
But, Chelsea haven’t lost to Southampton for 11 years.