Chelsea head to Middlesbrough on Sunday, will their visit be as successful as their last? They were 5-0 winners here in 2008, and they’re in good enough form for a repeat. Coming off a 5-0 win before the international break, will they continue their fantastic form? They’ll want to continue their winning run to keep up their push for the title. Ahead of this weekend they’re just a point behind leaders Liverpool.
Middlesbrough have made an unspectacular start to their return to the top flight. They’re fighting relegation, but there are at least three weaker sides in the division so far. They have a solid home record and some quality players, but will that be enough to trouble the Blues here? The visitors need to negotiate this trip with many of their stars returning from all corners of the continent.
Team News: Any change to winning formula?
The big drama over the international break was the injury to Diego Costa. That may have seen him miss the friendly with England at Wembley, but the forward is expected to return here. The big worry is that he’s a booking away from a ban, with Tottenham to come next weekend. Antonio Conte is likely to finally have Kurt Zouma available though. That said, the Frenchman may not even make the bench with the current competition for places at centre-half. It’s hard to see him replacing Terry among the substitutes.
It’s also hard to see Conte making too many changes to his in-form side. He’s settled on an 11, and even last season’s player of the year is missing because of that. Willian has had some mitigating circumstances for his absence, but can he force the Pedro and Eden Hazard pairing apart? We can’t see any chances being made from the side who beat Everton 5-0 last weekend.
Middlesbrough are without defenders James Husband and Daniel Ayala for this clash. They have former Manchester City man Alvaro Negredo up front, but they look short of options at the back. Can any of their defenders keep pace with the Premier League’s top scorer on Sunday? This should be a game to enjoy for Diego Costa. Can he add to his nine goal haul this term?
The hosts come into this game in an awful run of form. They’ve won just one of their last 10 matches, while they have just two league victories to their name all season. They’re just a point above the drop, and if any of the bottom three start to pick up, Boro could be in massive trouble. Few expected them to struggle this much during the summer, they were odds-on to avoid the drop before the season began.
Aitor Karanka’s men did pick things up in their last game though. Marten De Roon scored late on to give them a fine 1-1 draw away to Manchester City. That wasn’t exactly a result they earned, it was courtesy of City’s poor league run and tame finishing. Chelsea have been a lot more ruthless and clinical than the Citizens in recent weeks, so it’s hard to see a repeat of that result. The hosts have lost three of their last four at home, and the Blues are odds-on to make it four from five this weekend.
Middlesbrough v Chelsea Head to Head
Chelsea have a fantastic record against Middlesbrough, having won the last six meetings between the sides to nil. The 5-0 victory on their last league trip here was a rare highlight under Luis Felipe Scolari, before things began to unravel for the World Cup winner. The last meeting between these two came in the FA Cup, with the Blues coming out on top. You can tell that 2-0 victory was some time ago, as Victor Moses was among the scorers. He’s now back in the starting line-up, could he find the net again at the Riverside? The way the Blues are playing, every outfield player looks like a scoring threat.
- Middlesbrough 0-2 Chelsea, Feb 2013
- Chelsea 2-0 Middlesbrough, Jan 2009
- Middlesbrough 0-5 Chelsea, Oct 2008
- Chelsea 1-0 Middlesbrough, Mar 2008
- Middlesbrough 0-2 Chelsea, Oct 2007
- Diego Costa to score any time – 4/5 with BetVictor
- Chelsea to win to nil – 29/20 with Coral
Diego Costa was among the players to score past Everton in the last game, which kept him top of the Premier League scoring charts. The forward has missed both of Spain’s international fixtures through injury, but hopefully that short break leaves him fully rested ahead of this game. He’s been key to how the Blues have played this season, and the fact that he’s at risk of a suspension is a big worry. Costa can be relied on for goals, but you can’t rely on him to keep his cool.
The former Atletico Madrid man won’t hold anything back, even with a suspension potentially on the cards. He’ll be at full intensity when the team travel to Middlesbrough, and that’s why we’re backing him to grab a goal. The forward has nine in 11 in the league this term, which is an outstanding return. Middlesbrough have just one home clean sheet all season, and we can’t see them adding to it here. A goal for Costa is our tip, which is priced at 4/5 with BetVictor. He’s 11/4 to open the scoring with Sky Bet.
We’re also backing an away win to nil in this game. Not only have the Blues kept six straight clean sheets against Boro, but they’ve recorded five in a row in the league. The 3-4-3 formation is working well for the Chelsea defence; it’s changing a lot of perceptions around David Luiz. With Conte’s side finally looking like they have that Italian steel at the back, we’re going with an away win and clean sheet on Sunday. That’s priced at 29/20 with Coral.