After another two-week international ennui, proper football’s back on the menu this weekend. It’s the beginning of a three-week feast in fact, with four Premier League weekends and three Champions League midweeks in our busy future. (And then another international break because what could possibly make more sense than more international nonsense in the middle of a pandemic and an extra-congested fixture list!?)
Whether said feast will be tasty or rotten however is another question. Two of our three home games in the Champions League group stage will be in this period (Sevilla, Rennes), and they will sandwich a seven-day period when we have to travel to Manchester, then off the edge of the map to Krasnodar, then back north to Manchester-adjacent Burnley.
That makes winning our home games even more important, starting with Southampton.
Date / Time: Saturday, October 17, 2020, 15.00 BST; 10am EDT; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Pater Bankes (on pitch); Mike Dean (VAR) — Bankes is one of newer referees in Select Group, earning his promotion last year. This will be his first Chelsea match in the Premier League, though he did officiate our 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup last season.
Forecast: Cloudy and cool
On TV: Premier Sports 1, BT Sport Box Office (PPV* £14.95) (UK); NBCSN, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD2 (India); SuperSport Maximo, Canal+ Sport 2 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Premier Player (UK); NBC Sports Live, Universo Now (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
*if you’re angry about the pay-per-view, imagine that these were normal times, and only the 40,000 in the stadium could watch it live in the UK. That said, the price is bit high.
Chelsea team news: The international break took its usual toll, knocking out new goalkeeper Édouard Mendy with a hamstring and veteran center back Thiago Silva with jetlag. Hakim Ziyech also isn’t quite fully fit yet, but he’s expected to be available for bench duty.
In better news, Christian Pulisic is ready and Ben Chilwell has recovered from his various ailments of the past two weeks.
Before the break, Chelsea put together a solid 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, which was made to look even better with two late penalties making the final score 4-0. It was a most welcome performance after the inconsistent start, which showcased most of the same issues the team had been struggling with last season at either end of the pitch. The break thus came at a terrible time, but hopefully we can still build on that performance.
Southampton team news: Saints started the season with back-to-back defeats, including giving a up five-spot to Spurs, but have since put together back-to-back wins and clean sheets over Burnley and West Brom.
After last season’s mid-table finish, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side come in basically unchanged. Arsenal-bound Cédric Soares has been replaced by ex-Spurs Kyle Walker-Peters (who was already on loan there since January), while three more players have been added, none of whom have played any minutes yet, including Theo Walcott from Everton on loan.
Fun fact: Walcott is 31. And if that doesn’t make you feel old, the fact that Ryan Bertrand is the same age should. Chelsea’s Champions League-winning former left back recently made his 200th appearance for Southampton. (Ex-Chelsea man Oriol Romeu is still there as well, and he even scored a goal of the season contender in their last match!)
View from the enemy: St. Mary’s Musings
Previously: We have beaten Southampton just three (3!) times in our last eight (8!) Premier League meetings at Stamford Bridge. Not great! That included a 2-0 loss on Boxing Day last time out. Even worse! We have had great success at their stadium in the meantime, including a 4-1 win this time last year