Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits Saints’ struggles this season have been “a great surprise” to him.

“(Southampton) have great quality in their squad, it’s a great surprise to see them in this position,” said the Italian ahead of his side’s visit to St Mary’s today.

“I consider them a squad with great quality and talented players. For this reason, we must pay great attention because it won’t be easy playing against them.”

Chelsea’s squad, which stayed at the Ageas Bowl’s Hilton Hotel last night, includes Ross Barkley, who has recovered from injury.

His availability means that David Luiz (knee) and Ethan Ampadu (ankle) are their only absentees.

Gary Cahill is also expected to retain his place, having come in for Andreas Christensen for last week’s 1-1 draw with West Ham.

But Conte says Christensen remains in his plans.

“We’re talking about a young player,” the 48-year-old said.

“This is the first season playing at this level. To play at this level means you lose a lot of mental energy. It could be that he can be a bit tired.

“At the same time, to give Gary Cahill the possibility to play is right. We are talking about an important player, not only for Chelsea but also for the national team.

Conte refused to be drawn on his future as Chelsea manager amid reports Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri has been lined up to replace him. “The most important thing now is to be focused on Chelsea and to try to finish the season in the best possible way,” he said.