Eden Hazard vs Cedric Soares
If not the most important battle of the fixture, this will surely be a duel upon which a lot will hinge. Eden Hazard is in the form of his life at the moment already scoring seven goals and registering eight assists so far. It was his goal that gave Chelsea the crucial late lead against Tottenham Hotspur in FA Cup semis and Southampton will have the same threat from the Belgian international.
The attacking midfielder can cause all sorts of trouble for the Saints defence with his outstanding dribbling abilities and exquisite finishing. Hazard has completed 1187 passes this season with a passing accuracy of 84%.
Southampton could replicate United’s tactics and deploy tight marking for the player hoping it would work and if there is anyone capable of doing that in their squad, it is Soares. The Portugal international is fast, intelligent and most importantly a very composed player on the pitch. After Van Dijk, he is one of the most valuable assets Southampton have.
He has won 53 tackles this season with a success rate of 55% and can easily keep up with the pace of Hazard.
Diego Costa vs Maya Yoshida
Diego Costa isn’t having the best of times of late. The centre-forward started the season with a bang sitting at the top of League’s top scorer’s list for most of the time. However, the Spaniard looks to have lost his sting now and increased speculations about his future with the club have also affected it to some extent.
However, even when not scoring, the cunning forward holds many aces up his sleeve and could trigger opponents to making mistakes by infuriating them with his antics. Southampton will have to keep him quiet at all cost.
Claude Puel will have Maya Yoshida covering him. The Japan international has been the best player in Southampton’s back line since Jose Fonte left and Virgil van Dijk incurred a season-ending injury. Yoshida has won 52% of his tackles so far and is also very accurate with his passing.
Manolo Gabbiadini vs David Luiz
The Italian international has been a surprise package for Southampton since arriving in January. His previous stint with Napoli was a disaster and he has totally turned around his form. He has scored four goals in five league appearances for Southampton and his brilliant double in the EFL Cup final against Manchester United has earned him many fans. Although not the biggest of frames in opponent’s D-box, his finishing makes a world of difference.
Chelsea will have David Luiz taking care of him. While the Brazilian should have an easy duel this time given how intelligent a game reader he is, United perfectly exploited his weakness as Marcus Rashford found space behind him with pace. Gabbiadini will surely have his ploy in mind.
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