Chelsea’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Southampton was arguably the standout game of the Premier League betting weekend last time out. Mark Hughes’ men looked to have given their survival hopes a major boost when they took a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Dusan Tadic and Jan Bednarek either side of the interval.
But three Chelsea efforts in the space of eight second-half minutes turned the game on its head and ultimately left the Saints empty-handed. That result leaves the south coast side mired in relegation trouble with just a handful of games remaining – they are five points adrift of safety – but their attention turns towards the FA Cup this weekend.
Some Southampton supporters will welcome the chance to qualify for a second domestic final in as many years after last term’s appearance in the League Cup, but there is a good chance that manager Hughes will look at Sunday’s clash against Chelsea as an unwelcome distraction. From an FA Cup betting perspective, perhaps we can expect more of the same – a win for the Blues with both teams to score.
Unlike their upcoming opponents, this fixture is far from an inconvenience for Chelsea. The Premier League has not provided much joy for Antonio Conte and co. this term, with last season’s champions almost certain to miss out on a place in the top four.
Despite that come-from-behind triumph at St Mary’s on Saturday, seven points separate the west Londoners from Tottenham Hotspur in the final Champions League qualification spot, which means the Blues are facing the prospect of a second campaign in three outside Europe’s elite club competition.
For Conte, who looks set to depart Stamford Bridge before the start of 2018/19 regardless of what happens in the next six weeks, the FA Cup is the only way to salvage an otherwise disappointing season. The former Juventus boss did a tremendous job in winning the EPL title last time out and it could be argued that fifth spot in the top flight is par for the course when you compare with their direct rivals’.
Conte will be keen to end his tenure on a high, though, and getting his hands on the FA Cup would certainly confirm his period as Chelsea boss as a success. Given his fierce competitive streak and will to win, it is probable that last season’s defeat by Arsenal in the Wembley showpiece still plays on the mind of the 48-year-old Italian.
Southampton’s results have not yet turned since Hughes’ installation in the dugout, with their only victory in four matches coming against third-tier Wigan Athletic in the last eight of the FA Cup (this preview was written prior to Thursday’s meeting with Leicester City).
Yet while Saints were dismal in a 3-0 loss to West Ham at the end of last month, they have shown some signs of improvement in narrow 3-2 losses to Arsenal and Chelsea – most notably in attack. Indeed, Southampton have now scored six times in their four games under Hughes and have shown more bite in the final third.
The team played some tidy football on occasion when Mauricio Pellegrino was at the helm, but they failed to translate possession into clear-cut opportunities far too often. Hughes has certainly instigated an upturn in that regard; on another day, for instance, Southampton could easily have scored even more than two goals at the Emirates Stadium, while they had chances for a third against Chelsea too.
That, coupled with the Blues’ defensive struggles, means we should not be wanting for goals at Wembley on Sunday. Conte’s rear-guard has been breached 10 times in their last six outings in all competitions (prior to Thursday’s game against Burnley), with only one clean sheet kept since mid-January – and even that shut-out in a 3-0 win against West Bromwich Albion had an element of good fortune to it.
Chelsea are nowhere near as defensively secure as they were during their title triumph, and Southampton will fancy their chances of finding the net in this semi-final - a bet you can take on at one of the top football betting sites.
Overall, though, Chelsea are likely to prove too strong for their opponents, particularly as motivation will not be an issue in such a big game. There is little value to be had in simply backing Conte’s charges to come out on top, but odds such as 12/5 from 888sport and 39/20 from Redbet on a Chelsea win with both teams to find the back of the net are worth taking up.