Southampton v Chelsea preview: Jan Bednarek in line for debut
Last Updated: 14/04/18 11:15am
Jan Bednarek could be handed his Premier League debut as Southampton face a crucial clash with Chelsea on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
Saints are without defender Jack Stephens after he was sent off in the 3-2 defeat to Arsenal last weekend.
That could mean a debut in a five-man defence for 22-year-old Bednarek, who joined last summer from Lech Poznan but has so far only featured in cup competitions.
"I've got options which I'm grateful for, but obviously you want continuity," said Saints boss Mark Hughes on Thursday.
"Bednarek's a good young player, he came here for a significant amount of money, and he's played at a good level in Poland, in front of huge crowds. So it's not as if he hasn't got experience of operating at high level with pressure to perform.
"He's only 22, it's his birthday today in fact, but if I make the decision that he's going to be involved, then I've got no qualms with that."
Saints start the weekend in the relegation zone, three points from safety with six games left to play. They also face Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Cup next weekend.
Chelsea have won just one of their last five Premier League matches and are 10 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham.
Saints' only absentees are the suspended Stephens and Steven Davis, who is not yet ready to return from injury.
Ross Barkley is available for Chelsea after recovering from injury. His availability means that David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu, owing to respective long-term knee and ankle injuries, are their only absentees.
Gary Cahill is also expected to retain his place, having come in for Andreas Christensen for last week's 1-1 draw with West Ham.
Southampton have only won one of their nine Premier League games against Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium (D2 L6), winning 2-1 in March 2013 thanks to goals from Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert.
Only Manchester United (10) have won more away games at St Mary's Stadium in all competitions than Chelsea have (7).
Since the start of 2016-17, Southampton have failed to win any of their 22 Premier League matches against sides starting the day in the top six (D8 L14).
If Southampton lose this game, Mark Hughes will become only the second manager to lose three Premier League games against the same opponent in a single season after Graeme Souness vs Arsenal in 2004-05.
This is a must-win game for Southampton. Would they rather win this or the FA Cup semi-final next week? I don't know.
I think Southampton need to have a go and that will allow Chelsea to pick them off.
It's a nice game for Chelsea as Southampton have to come out and play and aren't going to kick them off the pitch. I don't think they will make it that hard for Chelsea.
Southampton had a great chance to beat Arsenal last weekend after taking the lead but if they don't win this game then they probably need to win two or three of their last five, which is too much.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-3 (14/1 with Sky Bet)