Chelsea have taken one step closer to lifting the Premier League title after a 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening.
They have recovered well after losing against Manchester United just over a week ago and it now looks likely that they will regain their league crown after the disappointment of last year.
The Blues have now moved seven points clear at the top of the table and have put the pressure on Tottenham ahead of their mid-week clash against Crystal Palace.
Here are three things that we learnt on Tuesday night…
Resting Diego Costa may have done the trick
Since the rumours linking the Spanish international to China, Costa had only scored four goals in 16 matches before Tuesday night.
There were many that thought that the striker’s head was elsewhere and that may be true, but Antonio Conte has managed to revitalise his top scorer.
Costa was excellent on Tuesday evening as he scored two goals and contributed a further assist. Unlike his recent performances, he looked sharp in his movement and was a constant thorn in Southampton’s side.
Although it was packaged up as the manager resting both Costa and Eden Hazard in the FA Cup semi-final, it could have been a move to motivate the former. The striker hasn’t been good enough since the turn of the year and it isn’t just his lack of goals, but he hasn’t applied himself on the pitch as much as he usually does.
During the first half of the season, the 28-year-old was aggressive, hard-working and focused. That hasn’t been the case recently, but this display suggested that he is ready to finish the season as he started it.
Sofiane Boufal is worth persevering with for Southampton
The Moroccan international joined Southampton for a club record fee last summer, but he has yet to reach the levels that he was expected to in the Premier League.
He has played only 18 times for the club in the league this season and the coaching staff will be hoping that he will improve during the next 12 months.
It was a surprise to see him in the starting eleven at Stamford Bridge and although his final ball was lacking, he did cause Chelsea problems this evening.
There is reason to believe that he has more to offer next season. He completed four dribbles during the cause of the match and showed some impressive skill to make space for himself in the final third.
After joining Southampton, there were doubts about his ability to work hard defensively for his team. On Tuesday, he completed two tackles and was aggressive in the attacking half to press the league leaders.
It was clear that he was lacking in confidence when he had the opportunity to make something happen, but his overall performance was encouraging.
Chelsea’s defence is a concern
The league leaders have conceded six goals in their last three matches and haven’t kept a clean sheet in the Premier League since January. This is a huge concern for Antonio Conte as they continue to concede sloppy goals and it will come back to bite them soon.
After switching to a 3-4-3 formation earlier in the season, they had the best defence in the league. However, they are now conceding every game and they don’t look like keeping a clean sheet anytime soon. The defence switched off for both of the Southampton goals and that will irritate their manager.
This poor defensive record since the turn of the year has underlined the need for better defenders and Conte will be ruthless during the summer. He will know better than anybody that they need to strengthen ahead of their return to the Champions League.
Gary Cahill may have scored on Tuesday, but doubts persist regarding whether he is good enough for this team. Meanwhile, Luiz showed against Southampton that he is still vulnerable to making defensive errors. Conte has work to do on the training ground ahead of the last few matches of the season.
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