Southampton manager Mark Hughes has admitted that Chelsea’s focus on the Premier League has “diminished” but still expects a tough test when his side host Antonio Conte’s men this weekend.
The Saints face a vital weekend as they look to put the pressure on their relegation rivals, with Hughes’ side currently sitting three points away from safety with a game in hand.
Southampton have only claimed one victory in their last 19 Premier League games ahead of the visit from the Stamford Bridge club this weekend.
Hughes’ men come into the game on the back of a tough loss at the hands of Arsenal in a 3-2 defeat at the Emirates Stadium. As for the visitors, they also conceded late on as they drew 1-1 with West Ham at Stamford Bridge.
Both sides have found it tough in recent weeks, with Saints collecting just two points from their last five Premier League games, while Chelsea have picked up just four points across the same run of games.
Saints have really struggled to perform at home this season, having picked up just three wins at St Mary’s from their 16 games at St Mary’s. As for the Blues, they have claimed 24 points from their 15 away games, winning seven of those and boasting the 6th best away record in the league.
It’s now getting to the key stage for the Saints this term as they need to start winning otherwise they will be playing in the Championship next season. The two teams met earlier in the season, with Chelsea claiming a nervy 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in December.
Saints have found it tough to win many games this season and need to start putting on performances for the full 90 minutes rather than just one half of a match, which has been a regular occurrence in previous fixtures.
Saints boss Hughes has this week sat down and spoken to the media ahead of the visit of Chelsea in what will be his first home game in charge of the club. As reported by Reuters, Hughes said:
Their focus on the Premier League, I don’t know… recent results suggest maybe the focus has diminished. Their priorities prior to the season involved Premier League and Champions League titles, clearly those have fallen by the wayside.
If they have a poor period, more often than not top teams bounce back so we’re not working towards the weekend thinking that Chelsea are going to be under par.
We have to prepare as if Chelsea are going to be at their best, with their best players available.
In terms of team news, Saints are set to just be without Steven Davis for this weekend’s visit of Chelsea with Hughes not reporting any other problems for his squad.
As for the visitors, defenders David Luiz, Ethan Ampadu and Davide Zappacosta remain out injured while Ross Barkley is still making his way back to full fitness.
In a match which is vital for both sides for different reasons, it’s one which the Saints really need to attack from the off and go out for the win with the games running out.
I feel that with Charlie Austin back amongst the goals, he could be the catalyst in helping Saints get back in the right direction come Saturday lunchtime. I feel that Saints will return to winning ways in a 2-1 victory.