Chelsea vs. Middlesbrough Preview
Stamford Bridge/May 8, 2017
Every title run needs a lucky break here and there, and honestly I think we haven’t been getting enough of those breaks lately until West Ham came on Friday bearing gifts. With the current form of both West Ham and Spurs, especially in London derbies this season, no one would have seen the final result coming. Manuel Lanzini’s second half strike was enough to win the game and in the process dent Spurs’ title aspirations. That goal might just be the one that eventually sends the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge. What this means, in the context of the title, is that we’ll win the title if we win our next two games, against Boro on Monday and West Brom next Friday.
The players and fans will have extra motivation for the game on Monday knowing what could be achieved by the end of the week. We could actually be Champions before Spurs even take to the pitch again against United at Three Points Lane! Looking at Spurs remaining fixtures I never thought it was going to be West Ham that would derail their ambitions this season because I was hoping for a repayment from Leicester City for what we did for them last season, but then again who cares who does it as long as it gets done, right?
The massive three points from Goodison Park last Sunday didn’t come without its own casualty with David Luiz having to be substituted late on with a suspected groin injury. Maybe Stamford Bridge will get another chance to say goodby to JT who might be drafted back into the team if, as expected, Luiz isn’t fit enough to take to the field. Conte brought on Ake against Everton, but this may be because JT wasn't in the match squad. Other than that, it should be a pretty straight forward lineup with the usual suspects doing the job against a recently resurgent Middleborough team on Monday. Antonio Conte reported during his pre-match conference on Friday that newly-crowned PFA Player of the Year N’Golo Kante also has a muscular problem with his thigh but should be alright to take the field on Monday night.
Injuries: David Luiz (Groin) – Slight Doubt; N’Golo Kante (Thigh) – Slight Doubt.
Last 5 Matches: WWLWL
The game at Stamford Bridge has taken on extra significance for the visitors after Hull City lost to already-relegated Sunderland on Saturday. If the Teesiders were to get a positive result on Monday, then their survival hopes will be back on track. Even though they have only taken four points from the last six available, they are still six points off the pace in their fight against relegation. Alvaro Negredo seemed to have found his scoring boots as well having netted in their last three games. Adama Traore and Stewart Downing also seem to have been given a new lease of life under interim boss Steven Agnew. Middlesbrough likes to concentrate more on the wings using the pace of Adama Traore and the crossing ability of Downing. Marten De Roon also likes to make belated runs into the opposition box from midfield.
Injuries: Grant Leadbitter (Hamstring) – Slight Doubt; Adlene Guediora (Groin) – Slight Doubt; Victor Valdes (Ribs) – Out; Daniel Ayala (Ankle)- Out.
Last 5 Matches: DWLLL
3 Matchups to Watch
- Costa vs. Ben Gibson: Although Costa didn’t get on the score sheet against Everton last time out, his contribution to our third goal is well documented. But against Ben Gibson he will be up against one of the future centre backs of the English game. This should be an interesting battle.
- Moses vs. Stewart Downing: Since most of Boro’s play comes from the wings, our wing backs must be on their toes for the duration of the game. Downing is no longer the winger he once was but he’s retained his knack for delivering delicious crosses into the box for Negredo to try and get on the end of. Hence Moses, along with our three centre backs, will have to be alert to the danger posed by the ageing winger.
- Alonso vs. Adama Traore: While Downing relies on his crosses, Traore on his part makes use of his blistering pace and dribbling skills. The downside to his game which might play into Alonso’s hands is that there isn’t always an end product to his runs, something the sacked Aitor Karanka continuously hammered on. Alonso, with help from Cahill, will have his hands full with the former Barcelona academy product.
This is the battle of the highest goal scorers in the league (72) against the lowest scorers (26). The result of this match could be vital at both ends of the table with both Hull City and Tottenham dropping points over the weekend. This match might also provide the Stamford Bridge crowd with an opportunity to watch John Terry lead the team out perhaps for the last time should David Luiz fail to recover from the groin strain that made him go for an early shower at Goodison Park. KTBFFH, Blues!
P.S. A Special shout out to Dan, Nick, and Brandon, the London is Blue Crew, who will be in the stands at Stamford Bridge cheering on the Blues in person!