Southampton supporter and Sky Sport Italia bet advisor, now exiled in Tuscany, Adam Grapes replied to our questions regarding today’s clash and team news before the kick-off at Saint Mary’s stadium.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte claimed yesterday that Saints play offensive football, this is the reason why he really likes Claude Puel.
“I wouldn’t really call our football offensive, – Grapes said – but at the same time it isn’t negative! Perhaps the best way to describe it is steady with the potential to be positive. So far we have only scored 11 goals in 9 matches, but we are waiting for the explosion!”.
Moreover, Matt Le Tissier revealed that both Eden Hazard and Diego Costa won’t shine in the clash at St.Mary’s as “Virgil van Dijk is the perfect player to deal with Diego Costa” and Cuco Martina could win the challenge against the Belgian star.
Anyway, Grapes has doubts about it: “You cannot disagree with Le God too much, but I’m not sure if Martina against Hazard is a particularly even contest”.
“I would have preferred to see Cedric Soares in the line-up - he added - but he isn’t yet available after his injury. Martina is a decent player, but I fear that Hazard will give him a difficult afternoon.
“Van Dijk, together with Fonte, are possibly the best centre back pairing in the Premier League, but against Costa they cannot let their guard down for even one second”.
Grapes is a football specialist really close to Italy and italian football, then we asked him a point of view about new manager Antonio Conte.
Will Chelsea improve under Conte and his well-known ‘idea of football’?
“I think their last home match against Manchester United was a sign that Conte is on the right track with his team – he claimed – I found it ridiculous the rumour of his possible departure a couple of weeks ago, the typical story to fill up a boring international week!”.
“At the end of the day, his team has lost only two games this season against Arsenal and Liverpool. His squad is reasonably strong”,
About striker Michy Batshuayi: “I believe that Batshuayi would get into the starting line-up of virtually every other team in the Premier League and without any European commitments, Conte can concentrate on the league”.
Chelsea and Southampton are reportedly set to fight in the race to reach the ‘European spots’ until the end of the season.
“I believe that Chelsea will not be just fighting for the European spots, but fighting for the title. It’s already pretty crowded at the top of the league, and a winning run at the right point of the season could open the door to any of the contenders”.
When asked about the Saints, he added: “Southampton? Of course Seville will win the Europa League as they always do, so no Champions League football for us next season!”.
“I would like to see us maybe get into Europe via a Cup win, as over the past few seasons we have neglected a bit these tournaments. The League Cup draw was unkind to us, but we beat Arsenal in this tournament a couple of seasons ago. We’ve done it before and it can be done again !
Who is the most talented player in Southampton squad at this stage? According to Grapes, is recently signed winger Soufiane Boufal.
“Hopefully Soufiane Boufal, our summer signing from Lille. He is just in the phase of being incorporated into the team after an injury and great things are expected of him.
“Hopefully his goal against Sunderland in the League Cup last Wednesday will be the start of something special!”.
Last but not least, also former Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu deserves a mention.
Grapes ended: “Maybe he isn’t our most talented player but has been fantastic for us this season in his role as a defensive centre midfielder. Hopefully today he will put in another decent performance to show his old club what they are missing!”.