Antonio Conte’s men travel to Middlesbrough on Sunday and the Italian manager will be looking to claiming all three points at the Riverside, as Chelsea look to maintain their good run of form in the league. The west London outfit did not make the best of starts to the new campaign, though seem to have settled well now. The Blues haven’t conceded in their last 5 games in top flight football after the Italian boss has switched to a 3-4-3 formation, in the recent games.
Middlesbrough, under manager Aitor Karanka currently sit 15th after eleven games, though draws at the Etihad and Emirates against Manchester City and Arsenal show that his side are capable of resolve against the league’s best.
Considering the fact that both teams look good at the moment, with the kind of football that they have been playing when needed the most, it could be a tough encounter between the two sides.
In the injury department, Chelsea suffered a slight scare when Eden Hazard seemed to pick up an injury during Belgium’s trashing of Estonia on Sunday with a calf complaint, but Robero Martinez played down the injury scare. Though, Chelsea’s hit-man Diego Costa may be a doubt as he was withdrawn from the Spain squad last week after a groin problem, it could be a possibility that he might play in this one.
Further, centre-back Kurt Zouma and mid-fielder Cesc Fabregas may also be deemed fit for the match, after their time-out with injuries and they should make their place on the bench at least.
On the other hand, Aitor Karanka has a fully fit squad and will try to put his best playing eleven for this current away fixture.
Predicted Starting Line-up:
Middlesbrough XI- Valdes, Barraghan, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Forshaw, Clayton, Traore, Ramirez, Downing, Negredo.
Chelsea XI – Courtois ,Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso, Pedro, Costa, Hazard.
Some other key stats :
Middlesbrough have lost their last five Premier League games against Chelsea, failing to score in each match. Chelsea have lost just twice in 17 Premier League outings to Boro, both those losses coming in 2006. Since then a decade has gone by and things have changed a lot for the two teams, who face off at the weekend.
With Conte’s Blues in title-challenging form and Boro confident taking points from the likes of Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola of late, Sunday’s match could be more of a fight than most fans anticipate.
Match Prediction – Middlesbrough 1-3 Chelsea