Soccer, Soccer News

Chelsea Rolling, but Whither Pulisic?

Chelsea is Improving, But American Star Christian Pulisic is Floundering

It has taken a few missteps to get to this point, but Frank Lampard and Chelsea appear to be hitting their stride heading into Sunday’s match at St Mary’s versus Southampton ahead of the international break. 

Young teams make mistakes, and Lampard’s youthful side have made plenty in the early going. Yet their energy and offensive talent have helped overcome a good portion of those miscues, and Chelsea (3-2-2) are looking for their fourth win on the bounce in all competitions following a vital 2-1 victory at French side Lille on Wednesday in their second Champions League group match. 

Tammy Abraham continued his goal-scoring binge, netting his team-high eighth in all competitions in the first half to mark his 22nd birthday, but it was one of the old guard – Willian – who helped the Pensioners secure all three points. The Brazil international made a deft right-footed smash of a looping cross from Callum Hudson-Odoi, hitting it into the ground and over Lille keeper Mike Maignan in the 78th minute for the match-winner. 

The result left Chelsea – who are -120 favorites to win this match according to the FanDuel Sports Book — second in Group H on three points, ahead of Valencia on goal difference, and three points behind leaders Ajax. The Blues will face last season’s surprise semifinalists away and home in their next two group matches after the international break, looking to be the first to nick a goal and a point off the Dutch side. 

Chelsea Odds Against Southampton as Pulisic Tries to Find His Way

As Chelsea’s fortunes have risen, Christian Pulisic’s have fallen. The U.S. international did not make the 18-man roster Wednesday, with his last appearance over the Blues’ last five matches in all competitions coming in the Blues’ 7-1 win over Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup on Sept. 25. With Hudson-Odoi back in the fold and Lampard still trying to find a formation that balances offense and defense – he used a 3-4-3 formation versus Lille, Pulisic is not in the manager’s doghouse, but he has slipped a few rungs on the ladder. 

Southampton (2-1-4) — +310 underdogs to claim a surprise win — enter this contest 14th in the table on seven points and trying to find ways to carry their Carabao Cup form over to league play. The Saints followed up a 4-0 thrashing of Portsmouth midweek with a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Sept. 28. 

The loss was particularly frustrating as Southampton played nearly the final hour of the match with a man advantage after Spurs’ Serge Aurier received his second booking. Danny Ings briefly pulled them level late in the first half after Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris made a hash of things in his six-yard box, only to see Tottenham talisman Harry Kane restore the Lilywhites’ lead shortly before intermission. 

Chelsea will be the fourth of the Big Six opponents for Southampton, whose lone point in the first three encounters was a home draw versus scuffling Manchester United. That is also the Saints’ lone league point at St Mary’s in three matches. 

The Pensioners took four points in the two meetings last season, including a 3-0 win in the corresponding fixture as Ross Barkley scored a goal and set up a second. Southampton’s 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in the most recent matchup ended a seven-match losing streak in all competitions to Chelsea, but they are 0-1-5 in their last six home matches in the series. 

Southampton also have not scored in 300 minutes overall against the Blues since Jan Bednarek netted in a 3-2 defeat April 14, 2018.