Chelsea welcome Southampton to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this afternoon, with the two teams simply desperate to salvage some positivity in what has been a wretched campaign for both.
The visitors might sit bottom of the table, but the Blues – who have spent more than £550m since Todd Boehly assumed ownership of the club last year – have won just one of their nine matches across all competitions since the start of January, so the need to rectify that is glaring.
Graham Potter will welcome back the likes of Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who were all excluded from the Champions League knockout phase squad due to player congestion, consequently missing the midweek defeat against Borussia Dortmund.
Additionally, a host of players – including Raheem Sterling and Ben Chilwell – may be in contention following a raft of injuries to the west London outfit over recent weeks.
How might Potter line up his Chelsea team against Southampton?
Considering these factors, Potter might be inclined to revert to a similar team which claimed a third successive top-flight draw away to West Ham United last week. Here is Football FanCast’s predicted starting XI, which in turn sees two changes from the trip to Germany on Wednesday…
Predicted Chelsea line-up – Kepa; James, Silva, Badiashile, Cucurella; Loftus-Cheek, Fernandez; Madueke, Felix, Mudryk; Havertz
Kepa Arrizabalaga takes his place between the sticks once again, having started the last eight Premier League matches in succession and conceded only one goal in his last four top-flight games.
In defence, Kalidou Koulibaly reverts to the bench and Badiashile will indeed return following his midweek Champions League absence. The former has been benched for the last two top-flight games and, at 31, might struggle with a second start in less than 72 hours; while the latter has impressed of late with a solid 7.38 Sofascore rating, the second-highest in Potter’s squad.
Elsewhere, the under-fire Marc Cucurella could retain his starting berth despite recent criticism, with Chilwell unlikely to be risked after hobbling off against Dortmund.
Will Chelsea beat Southampton?
In midfield, January signing Enzo Fernandez will start once again, having featured from the beginning in every match since his arrival from Benfica, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has started Chelsea’s last two games after returning from injury, may be entrusted to add a robust aura one more.
In the offensive third, £29m January arrival Madueke – who has been dubbed “sensational” by journalist Danny Rust – comes back in following his Champions League omission, with Hakim Ziyech dropping out. Meanwhile the fleet-footed Mykhaylo Mudryk will hope to score after blanking across his first four outings in blue; while despite only scoring six times this season, Kai Havertz could continue to be entrusted at centre-forward in the absence of any more potent option.
Potter will meticulously select the team which he feels is best equipped to get Chelsea back winning, and nothing less than three points will do at home to the side who are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and currently without a permanent manager.