Chelsea face Southampton later today. Here are five potential battles we think could be crucial in the game at St Mary’s.
Cesc Fabregas v Oriol Romeu
One of two former Chelsea players in the likely Saints’ line-up, Romeu will be charged with shutting off the supply to Diego Costa in the absence of the suspended Victor Wanyama. Fabregas has been one of the stand-out performers under Guus Hiddink.
Diego Costa v Virgil van Dijk
Costa will face a tussle with the 6ft 4in Van Dijk, who was linked with Chelsea before his move to Southampton last September. The Dutchman loves a physical battle.
Willian v Ryan Bertrand
Briefly Chelsea team-mates, Willian and Bertrand started only one league match together – a 4-1 win over Cardiff in October 2013 – and will now face each other for the third time. Willian has scored in two of his last three games and often looks Chelsea’s most threatening player, but Bertrand has shone at both full-back and wing-back in recent weeks.
Branislav Ivanovic v Shane Long or Graziano Pelle
Ivanovic has been praised by boss Guus Hiddink for his leadership qualities but faces a tough test whichever of Southampton’s strikers he comes up against. Saints have played both Long and Pelle in a 3-5-2 formation in the last couple of games but could drop the Italian if they revert to 4-2-3-1. With John Terry and Kurt Zouma both out, Chelsea need to stay strong to avoid a repeat of the 3-1 home defeat against the Saints in October.
Chelsea’s attack v Fraser Forster
Keeper Forster has been in stunning form since returning from a long-term injury – he hasn’t conceded a goal in his six matches back in the side. Can Chelsea’s attacking talent end that run?