LONDON (SE) -- Given the recent league form of both Chelsea and Southampton, the two sides should be confident heading into their mid-week make-up match Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.
This game was originally scheduled for Dec. 15, but postponed while the Blues (12-5-4) participated in the Club World Cup in Tokyo, where they finished runners-up. That tournament may have helped manager Rafa Benitez get a feel for his team, and Chelsea enter this match with a chance to strengthen their hold on third place in the table - they are one point ahead of Tottenham and seven behind Manchester City for second.
Benitez's team bounced back from a surprising League Cup first-leg semifinal home loss to Swansea last Wednesday by hammering Stoke City 4-0 at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Chelsea benefitted from two own goals by Stoke's Jonathan Walters before Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard scored second-half goals eight minutes apart to salt away the win.
While the offence delivered again - Chelsea have scored 18 goals in winning five of six in league play - Petr Cech was a welcome sight between the sticks as he made his first appearance since Dec. 30 and made four saves for the clean sheet. The veteran goalkeeper, though, is keen on making the most of this fixture as the Blues continue their push for a Champions League spot.
"This is a great win against Stoke but if you don't confirm that by winning three points at home then you waste it, and we don't want to do that, we want to climb up the table again," he told Chelsea's official website. "We were organised and we scored goals at a good time, and that is what gives you three points in a difficult game."
Captain and central defender John Terry also appeared as a late substitute in the 80th minute for his first top-flight action since Nov. 11 after being sidelined with a knee injury. Lampard has scored goals in four of the last five league matches he has started.
Southampton (5-6-10) are only two points clear of the drop zone but are 15th in the table and ahead of Newcastle on goal differential heading to London. The Saints have taken points from their last four matches with three draws and a victory, with the latter coming in Saturday's 1-0 triumph at Aston Villa.
Rickie Lambert converted a penalty kick in the 34th minute for the Saints after Jay Rodriguez, and manager Nigel Adkins praised his side's resolute defence after turning in its first clean sheet on the road in league play.
"I think we have shown a growing maturity about ourselves throughout the course of the season," Adkins said. "I think it was a challenging start for everybody, but that is 11 games now and only two defeats."
Adkins may have to tweak his backline after defender Luke Shaw had to leave in the 87th minute on a stretcher due to a knee injury.
After being outscored 18-5 in losing their first five road matches in league play, Southampton have taken points in four of the last five (2-2-1) while outscoring opponents 8-6.
This is the first league match between the sides since Chelsea rolled to a 3-1 win at Southampton in the 2004-05 season. The Blues, though, stormed to a 5-1 road victory in FA Cup play on Jan. 5, when Demba Ba scored his first two goals with the team as they overcame an early goal by Rodriguez.
Chelsea have won five straight and are unbeaten in their last seven (5-2-0) over Southampton since a 4-2 loss at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 1, 2002.