Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has called on his side not to underestimate Southampton in their Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge today because of the attacking threat Mauricio Pellegrino’s side may pose.
“Tomorrow will be very difficult. Southampton are a good team with a lot of good young players with a great future. They are a good team,” he said at his pre-match conference, according to BBC Sport.
“They can play very well on the counter-attack. (Charlie) Austin, (Nathan) Redmond, (Dusan) Tadic, (Shane) Long, (Sofiane) Boufal. I have this expectation to suffer, we must pay great attention.
“When we played West Ham (last week), we didn’t win (0-1 loss). We must pay attention.”
Chelsea are in third place, 14 points behind runaway league leaders Manchester City (49 points) after 17 games prior to this weekend’s round of matches.
While Conte has said that he was just being realistic when he conceded that the Blues are out of the title race, he added that Pep Guardiola’s side, who are on a 15-game winning streak, have been “lucky”.
“They are a really good team, to have this 15 wins in a row you must say they’ve been lucky,” he said.
“They won games in the final minutes, when you have this type of run, you must be a bit lucky. We must find the right solution to contend for the title.”
The Chelsea manager confirmed that defender David Luiz is still struggling with injury.
“David has a big inflammation in his knee and we are trying to solve this situation,” he said.
“It’s important to assess this situation day by day. I don’t know when he is able to come back.”
Striker Alvaro Morata has recovered from the injury that kept him out of Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Huddersfield on Tuesday, and is in contention to start the match today.
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has also echoed his manager’s thoughts and said that the Blues will not take Southampton easily.
“It’s a tough game, Southampton drew against Arsenal and it’s always difficult against them home or away,” the Belgian told the club website (www.chelseafc.com) .
“We have to be careful because these are the games we have to win if we want to stay near the top and try to close the gap on City.
“Obviously we are far away but we want to keep on pushing and if we can’t catch them, we want to finish second.”
Southampton were hammered 4-1 by Leicester City on Wednesday as former Saints boss Claude Puel returned to heap misery on the club, who are 11th in the league with 18 points after their seventh defeat of the season.
Pellegrino, who apologised to Southampton fans after the loss, believes the Chelsea game offers his team a good chance to respond to the heavy defeat and end a run of four games without victory.
“For us, it is a good opportunity this Saturday where we can play a top team where we might find more space. Even against really good teams, you can beat them in 90 minutes, anything can happen,” he said.