Chelsea travel to St Mary’s for today’s Premier League match against Southampton, with one eye on Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Premiership runaway leaders Manchester United.
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has declared that the Southampton match has to be his priority, with Champions League qualification crucially important for the club.
He also conceded that his Man United counterpart had the advantage of being able to rest key players for their PL tie with Sunderland (currently being played).
“We can’t do that. The difference between them and us is that they are 15 points ahead,” Benitez said.
“It is not an excuse. The reality is that their position in the table gives them an advantage and they are out of the Champions League. Their priority will be the FA Cup.
“We have to pick a very competitive team for Southampton. If we can beat Southampton we will be keeping an eye on Manchester City.”
Benitez admits he has tough decisions to make over the coming days over first-team selections, with under 45 hours recovery time between the Southampton and Man United matches.
“It is not easy to make a decision because it is impossible to be fully fit for the second game,” he added. “The day after a game you feel tired, two days after you feel even more tired. That is the reality. The second day will be really tough for everyone.
“All of them they can play [both games in 48 hours] but at what level? Sometimes you can do it if you are not 100% but it depends on each position and each player.”
Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Lallana, Lambert
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Ba
Prediction: Chelsea to win 2-1. I predict a tough tie against a very strong home side in Southampton FC. Ricky Lambert seems to find his best goalscoring boots in important fixtures and I fancy him to score their sole goal. I also predict the Chelsea midfield to dominate this game, and put us in the driving seat for all three points. Come on you Blues.