By Russell Edge

23rd Apr, 2017 | 3:40pm

28-year-old axed in Conte 3-4-3: Chelsea best possible starting XI v Southampton

COMMENT by Russell Edge

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte should resist the temptation to restore striker Diego Costa to the starting XI when his side take on Southampton.

The 28-year-old was missing for their FA Cup victory over Tottenham, and that is where he should remain when Southampton visit Stamford Bridge.

Instead, Eden Hazard should take the role up front as a false number nine, with the Southampton defenders well prepared for an aerial battle.

Attacker Hazard and defender Gary Cahill should step into the side for Michy Batshuayi and Nathan Ake, despite the pair helping the Blues reach the FA Cup final as Antonio Conte hunts for a domestic double in his first season in English football.

Spanish striker Costa has endured a difficult couple of months, having failed to score for Chelsea since early March, and with a crucial period of fixtures coming up for Conte’s side, it is crucial to have everyone in top form.

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Hazard on the other hand has returned to his very best, and has scored four goals in as many games for the Blues, playing a crucial role in their title push.

Up front, Hazard should be flanked by Willian, who scored two goals against Tottenham, and Spanish winger Pedro, as they aim to penetrate the Southampton defence with pace and intricate interplay as oppose to lofted crosses into the box.

Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida were torn apart by the attacking flair of Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in their 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, and Chelsea should adopt similar tactics to ensure victory.

At the back, Cahill should return in place of Ake and reform the partnership with Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz, flanked by wing backs Marcus Alonso and Victor Moses in a move which has proved a real success this season.

The midfield duo of N’golo Kante and Nemanja Matic, fresh from his wonder strike against Spurs, will look to frustrate the midfield of Southampton with their dynamism and combative nature, in order to break down play and initiate attacks for their attacking players.

In other Chelsea news, Tottenham fans applauded this Blues player after excelling against Spurs at Wembley.

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