3. Defensive set-up
Perhaps the most telling aspect of this match will be Tuchel’s defensive set-up. There were questions raised following the Barnsley victory regarding the formation Chelsea would line up in from there on out. The Blues played a four at the back for the first time under new management for the second half of that FA Cup tie and they had more control than in the first. However, all questions were put to rest when the starting XI against Newcastle dropped.
The 3-4-3 is here to stay.
There are still question marks regarding the set-up. Obviously Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta are Tuchel’s go-to guys in central defense when healthy. Those last two words are key though. Silva’s original goal was to return from a muscle injury by the Southampton game. Whether or not that’ll happen is yet to be seen though. His injury makes things a bit tough in terms of rotation. Andreas Christensen has been a fine stand in for the Brazilian, but he’s played in four consecutive matches. Given the run of games the Blues have ahead of them, it’d seem foolish to give Silva a run out, but you never know.
Kurt Zouma‘s status also hangs in the balance; although not because of injury. Zouma was dropped in Frank Lampard’s last days and has been banished to the bench ever since. He’s played multiple times under Tuchel—putting in a good shift each time—but the German gaffer’s mind seems set when it comes to his defensive shape. It’s not too crazy to think the Frenchman would get the nod against Southampton though, as Tuchel will want to conserve the energy of his starting defenders whenever possible.
We’re also likely to see Edouard Mendy back in goal for the first time in three games. Kepa Arrizabalaga was given a run out and kept two consecutive clean sheets. The Blues now have a healthy goalkeeper competition, but Tuchel insists the Senegalese shot-stopper is still his No. 1.
The defensive personnel won’t play as big a role in this game as in matches previous. However, it’ll give Chelsea supporters an idea of where the team stands.
What are three things you’ll be looking for? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!