Antonio Conte will be looking for a reaction from his Chelsea players as they prepare to take on relegation-threatened Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon.
Chelsea have picked up just four points from their previous five Premier League encounters, including a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham during their last outing.
These results have seen the London club slip further away from the Champions League places with fourth-placed Tottenham now holding a ten point lead on their rivals with six matches of the season remaining.
Ahead of their clash at Southampton at the weekend, here are the five things to watch out for:
#1 Conte to rotate
This is the first of three matches to be played in eight days for Chelsea, so Conte will be expected to use a large chunk of his squad during these fixtures. It remains to be seen how many changes he makes for the Saints clash, especially after two poor showings at home to West Ham and Spurs. Rather than making changes for changes sakes, it is fair to say that the supporters will want to see under-performing players dropped ahead of a crucial week for the club.
#2 Will Chelsea show fight?
Even the most optimistic of Chelsea fans would admit that the club will be playing Europa League football next season. Added with that, the manager doesn’t want to be there and is cutting a figure of someone who wants the season to end. Therefore, with only pride to play for in the Premier League, the Chelsea players’ mentality and hunger to play for the fans will be tested at the weekend.
#3 Both teams to score?
Expect goals to be scored in this fixture because both sides come into this game at the back of poor form and an underperforming defence. The away side haven’t kept a clean sheet since their 3-0 win against soon-to-be relegated West Brom in February. By contrast, the Saints have conceded 50 goals during this campaign, mainly under their previous manager, Manuel Pellegrino.
#4 Drinkwater to start?
Following his big-money move from Leicester in the summer, Danny Drinkwater has endured a frustrating time at Stamford Bridge. The former Premier League winning midfielder has only started five league games this season despite Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas underperforming during this campaign. With Chelsea set to play three games in eight days, Drinkwater could be part of Conte’s rotation as he aims to keep his squad fresh for the FA Cup semi-final next Sunday.
#5 Who will get the edge ahead of FA Cup showdown?
Both Chelsea and Southampton will meet in the FA Cup semi-final next Sunday at Wembley. Mark Hughes’ side will firmly have their sights set on the weekend game because they are aiming to get out of the relegation zone. However, it will not be a surprise if Conte weakens his side at St Mary’s so he can keep his key players more fresh for that cup showdown. There is no doubt that the London club have more chance in lifting the FA Cup then they do in closing the gap on the top-four.