At the start of the season and with (lucrative) departures of almost all of their best players, it looked like Southampton was one of the best tips for the relegation. Ronald Koeman took charge after Pochettino had left for, it seemed, more better looking job, and made a few not quite spectacular signings. Five months later, Southampton can be seen as the biggest positive surprise of the season along with West Ham and is, actually, fighting for the European spot. It doesn’t look probable Southampton could endure the CL spot race with the richer clubs with bigger rotation, but they have endured it for a half of the season, didn’t they?
Regardless of tectonic changes on and by the football field, they have been doing quite good since August but their real quality test comes against the best clubs. Despite the season, they have lost matches to all three projected top-four clubs until now – City, United and Arsenal. And they are now facing the biggest title contender, Chelsea, at the Stadium of Light in one of the most interesting games of the round. Jose Mourinho’s team is back on track after a two bumps on the north, against Sunderland and Newcastle, and the Portuguese will now lead his team to the south, for a clash with his former colleague, Ronald Koeman. The two were part of Louis van Gaal’s technical staff at Barcelona fifteen years ago and a few could have expected both are going to have careers this successful. Anyway, Chelsea is looking to keep the gap against City at three points and the hosts are coming into the game without pressure and motivated to make a first big individual surprise of the season besides the general one.