December 27, 2014

It's impenetrable Southampton and Fraser Forster who are harbouring European hopes and not reigning champions Chelsea ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash at St Mary's.

The Saints have kept six straight clean sheets, not allowing a goal in 554 minutes of Premier League football. Forster has been in goal in every match in this 5-1-0 streak, capped by a 1-0 victory Feb. 13 at Swansea City. His shutout streak stands at 633 minutes overall.

The last time Southampton (11-7-8) kept seven straight clean sheets was when Paul Jones was their goalkeeper in 2001. The Welshman won't be disappointed to see company in the record books on the South coast.

"If it happens it would be brilliant, the boys totally deserve it," Jones told the Saints' official website. "to be fair to Frase, to come back from the injury he had and to be out for ten months, he's been fantastic."

Southampton are in sixth place on 40 points - one behind Manchester United and seven behind Manchester City, who hold the final Champions League spot.

Keeping a clean sheet won't be easy since the Saints have failed to do so in their last 11 meetings with the Blues.

Chelsea (8-9-9) make the journey after smashing five past City in the FA Cup over the weekend, although their fellow big spenders sent out a sorry lineup of youngsters ahead of their Champions League win at Dynamo Kiev.

''It is a boost in the confidence for the players. We are making steps (forward),'' manager Guus Hiddink said. ''There is not much left in the league for Chelsea, to be honest, so we focus on the games in the FA Cup.''

The Blues are languishing in 12th place on 33 points. Only victory in the Champions League, where they face a 2-1 deficit after the first leg to Paris Saint-Germain, will return them to that competition.

Chelsea also enjoyed that same five-goal haul in their last league fixture as they crushed woeful Newcastle United on Feb. 13. Diego Costa, Pedro and Willian were all on target inside of 17 minutes as the Blues stretched their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 10 matches with six draws.

Southampton are seeking to complete their first league double of Chelsea after winning 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Oct. 3. Willian gave the Blues the lead in the 10th minute before Steven Davis equalised two minutes before halftime, and Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle struck in the second half.

Captain John Terry missed the loss in Paris as well as the FA Cup match due to a hamstring injury. Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have served as the pairing at center back with Terry absent.

Eden Hazard was handed his first Premier League start since Dec. 28 against Newcastle. He has yet to score in the league after he had 14 goals for the champions last campaign.

Anyone willing to wager on this contest might fancy a draw thanks to a curious pattern in the Blues' unbeaten run. The first nine matches featured a win by Chelsea followed by successive draws so the smart money may be on these sides sharing the spoils.

Pointing to a scoreless draw is a trend that has seen the Saints' last four home fixtures finish 4-0, 3-0, 2-0 and 1-0.

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