FA Cup Quarter-Finalists Chelsea are the visitors to St Mary’s on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off in the Barclays Premier League.
Our third meeting with the Rafa Benitez’s men inside three months sees Saints go in search of a first win over the Blues of the campaign having lost an FA Cup clash here, before fighting back to earn a respectable 2-2 draw in the reverse league clash at Stamford Bridge.
Southampton will host the Blues almost eight years to the day from their previous league trip to St Mary’s a game which Chelsea won 3-1 as they crept closer to winning the title thanks to a goal from Mateja Kezman and a brace of Eidur Gudjohnsen strikes either side of Kevin Phillips’ effort for Saints.
This time around, the title is a long shot for the Blues, but they are firmly in the running for second place after breaking back into the top three with nine matches to play.
They do however, enter a run of seven matches inside 19 days starting this weekend, and will have an eye on Monday’s FA Cup Quarter-Final replay with Manchester United before preparing to face two other games in the next week.
Saints have no such worries and head into Saturday’s contest on the back of a week’s break from the action following the impressive 3-1 win over Liverpool at St Mary’s.
There were however, plenty of faces away on international duty, with all players returning home unscathed ahead of the weekend.
Chelsea were 2-0 winners over West Ham a fortnight ago with Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard on target for the Blues with the former now closing in on the club’s record goalscorer’s crown.
Ex-Blues midfielder Jack Cork has been a regular feature of the Saints midfield this season, and is likely to play against the club he grew up with once more.
All of the Saints players who departed for international duty have returned to Staplewood in good health. Artur Boruc, Vegard Forren, Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse, Nathaniel Clyne, Steven Davis, Maya Yoshida, Gastón Ramírez and Emmanuel Mayuka are all back in training.
Jos Hooiveld limped out of the first half in the win over Liverpool, but should be fit enough to return to the action this weekend.
Chelsea may rotate their side ahead of their busy schedule, though the current form of midfield duo Eden Hazard and Juan Mata may be too instrumental to tamper with as Rafa Benitez seeks a winning formula.
We met twice in January, which although came just over two weeks apart, were two very different matches with the FA Cup holders getting the defence of their trophy off to a flying start with a 5-1 win over Saints. Jay Rodriguez put the hosts in front before the Blues hit back with efforts that included a brace of strikes for debutant Demba Ba.
Ba would go on to strike again in the league contest at Stamford Bridge which the Blues took a two-goal lead in, before Jason Puncheon and Rickie Lambert struck in the second 45 to rescue a draw.
It has been eight years since Chelsea last visited us in the league with the aforementioned 3-1 win which completed a league double of victories for the Blues in that season, having also ran out 2-1 victors earlier in the campaign.
Southampton are yet to beat Chelsea at St Mary’s with the last home win coming in 2000when James Beattie’s double sandwiched a Jo Tessem strike in a 3-2 success.
Overall the two teams have played one-another on 88 occasions in league and cup. 36 of those have gone the way of the Blues, 26 have resulted in Saints wins and 26 in draws.
Martin Atkinson will referee Saturday’s game, and he will be assisted by Mr R West and Mr H Lennard. Gavin Ward is the fourth official.
You can listen to live commentary courtesy of BBC Solent on Saints Player, where you can keep up to date with all the stats and scores from around the country.
Mauricio Pochettino and Jack Cork will speak to Saints Player ahead of the game, and you will be able to watch their interviews – and the gaffer’s full press conference – later today.