Jose wary of threat from in-form Saints

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is wary of Southampton’s attacking threat and expects them to play without fear when the sides meet at St Mary’s.

A brilliant start to the season saw new boss Ronald Koeman defy the critics and guide the Saints to second in the Premier League in early November, despite them losing many of last season’s star players in the summer.

Four consecutive league defeats curtailed their progress but back-to-back wins over Everton and Crystal Palace have got them back on track.

And a victory against the Blues, who beat West Ham on Boxing Day, could see Koeman’s side climb back above Manchester United and up to third.

“Southampton don’t have pressure,” Mourinho said. “Relegation is very, very far and the title is not for them, so they are in a fantastic situation to play beautiful football like they are doing.”

And Mourinho is not surprised by the progress made under former colleague Koeman, who took over from Mauricio Pochettino in the summer.

“I know Ronald well,” the Portuguese added. “We worked together in Barcelona on the coaching staff. I know he is a good coach.

“He has a good mentality and I know the football principles he defends and he likes. When I saw him get the Pochettino team I thought he was the right guy to do it.”

Chelsea’s impressive season so far was predicted by many following the summer signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. Nine home wins from nine in the league, with just one defeat all season, plus progress in the Champions League and Capital One Cup have backed up their billing as pre-season title favourites.

But the Saints were expected to struggle after selling Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers.

“Obviously they lost some good players, but they were very clinical in their choices,” Mourinho said.

“They have a very good squad, a very good coach. They are playing well and getting results.”

If Chelsea avoid defeat on the south coast it will ensure they top the table when they travel to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day.

Second-placed Manchester City have two home games, against Burnley on Sunday and then Sunderland.

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