Sports journalists up and down the country are asking themselves—is this it, is this the moment that Mourinho’s tenure at Chelsea begins to unravel again? Every football fan recognises that the Portuguese is one of the greatest managers in the world, but his increasingly combative behaviour is beginning to affect the players. Or maybe this is one giant mindgame, and Chelsea are about to win the next 31 games. In the other dugout, Ronald Koeman will be eyeing up this Blues side and thinking they’re ripe for a defeat. Southampton won in their last outing and have a good chance of putting together back-to-back wins.
Virgil van Dijk
A new signing at St. Mary’s, Van Dijk was bought from Celtic for approximately £11.5 million. Considering several big clubs had an eye on the young Dutchman, the Saints did well to bag him. And he’s already paying off, with a goal against Swansea in a MotM performance that will have delighted his manager. With Diego Costa suspended, Van Dijk will be against either Remy or Falcao, neither of whom seem to have their manager’s confidence right now. It would be a real surprise to see the Blues score many, if at all, in this match.
One of the few saving graces of a “minus one out of ten” display against Newcastle, Ramires dragged Chelsea back into the match after going 2-0 down. After Eden Hazard got lucky with the bounce of the ball, he passed to Ramires who set himself and fired this missile into the top corner. Is the long-serving Brazilian the man to ignite Chelsea’s lacklustre season? He may not have the creativity of Fabregas or the tenacity of Matic, but Ramires has come good when it mattered in the past. He’s got a fearsome engine and should be able to give Southampton’s midfield something to think about.
The immaculately coiffured Italian has four goals to his name already, and was able to score twice against Manchester United (despite ultimately losing). Capable of combining flair with a great finish, expect Pellè to score a fair few this season—and an out of sorts Chelsea will have a hard time keeping a clean sheet against him. He has been able to emulate Rickie Lambert’s value to Saints by bringing other attackers into play whenever he can, and has developed a good understanding with the likes of Mané and Tadic. He continues to repay Koeman’s faith in him.
The honourable mention this week goes to the brilliant Dusan Tadic, one of the most creative and effective wide players in the league. He has 3 goals and an assist so far this season, and will be licking his lips at the thought of facing Branislav Ivanovic—one of Chelsea’s poorer performers in an underperforming team. If he keeps this up, Tadic will be on the radars of the biggest clubs in Europe, never mind just English ones. Lallana who?