- Ryan Betrand is unavailable for Saints
- Chelsea has won five straight matches after losing to Newcastle
- Captain Jose Fonte is set to return for Southampton
Chelsea face another matchup against top-four opposition as they travel to St. Mary’s to close out 2014 with a match against Southampton.
You can watch the match live at 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.
After losing five straight matches, Southampton have rebounded with back-to-back wins over Everton and Crystal Palace. Back up to fourth on the table, Ronald Koeman’s men will have their hands full as they face the league-leaders who are coming off of a dominant win over West Ham.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
Saints will be without left-back Ryan Betrand, who is enjoying a breakout season and scored on Boxing Day against Crystal Palace. Betrand is on loan at St. Mary’s from Chelsea, and is ineligible to play against his parent-club. Luckily for Southampton, skipper Jose Fonte is likely to return to the back line after sitting out at Selhurst Park. Shane Long could also get a start for Saints, as the Irish striker has scored in three of his past four starts against Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho could be tempted to rest some of his players with such a hectic holiday schedule, but with Manchester City playing at home against Burnley, three points is a must for Chelsea to stay clear at the top of the table. Chelsea lead the league with 40 goals scored, but are facing a Southampton side that has kept six clean sheets in their past nine matches at home.
What they’re saying:
Saints boss Ronald Koeman on playing for the win: “We know it will be very difficult but it isn’t impossible. What we like to do is play football and to play attractive, offensive football and to go for it. But that is for every game, not just when our opponent is Chelsea or Manchester City. We will go for it. That’s football and if you don’t go for it, stay at home.”
Chelsea manager Mourinho on facing Southampton: “They are getting results and they are the kind of team that in this moment has no pressure as relegation is very far away and the title is not for them. So they are in a fantastic situation to play beautiful football like they are doing.”
It’s hard to bet against Chelsea after putting in such a convincing performance against West Ham, and Saints will miss Ryan Bertrand’s speed against the Blues’ shifty attackers. Southampton 0-2 Chelsea.