Middlesbrough welcome Chelsea FC to the Riverside on Sunday in the only Premier League fixture of the day. Boro have recorded a series of notably scalps recently, including away draws to both Arsenal and Manchester City. However, Chelsea have enjoyed scintillating form of late, and duly go into Sunday’s clash as massive favourites.
Last time out the North East club took on Manchester City in that aforementioned 1-1 draw, with Marten De Roon scoring a late header to secure a point for Aitor Karanka’s side. Chelsea meanwhile were victors once again when they welcomed Everton to Stamford Bridge in a 5-0 thumping and perhaps the most impressive performance of the season.
While Middlesbrough’s promotion may have been built upon defensive solidity, it is the blues rock-solid backline which has truly come to the fore under Antonio Conte. Indeed, Chelsea have not conceded a Premier League goal in their last five outings. Juxtaposed to that impermeable backline, Chelsea have scored 16 goals in that time.
Middlesbrough certainly haven’t been overly impressive this season however, despite recording two draws away to the perennial big boys. Having won just two of their 11 games so far they could consider themselves lucky to be sitting 15th in the table. With only one point keeping Boro out of the relegation zone, another loss this weekend and it could suddenly become worrying times on the Riverside once again.
With regard to team news for the visitors Marco Van Ginkel and Kurt Zouma are now on the verge of making their senior returns after stepping up their recovery with the under age groups in recent weeks. Furthermore, Diego Costa was forced to withdraw from the Spain squad with a groin injury and is a doubt for Sunday’s match away to Middlesbrough, although he is expected to start.
Boro meanwhile welcome back Gaston Ramirez to the team after he missed their 1-1 draw with Manchester City through suspension. Daniel Ayala has been sidelined for two matches with an ankle injury and remains a doubt here. James Husband, meanwhile, lacks match fitness. Also notable, George Friend is a doubt after picking up a knock in training.
Final injury notes for Chelsea are that Eden Hazard was forced off midway through Belgium’s match against Estonia during the international break, while Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are also injury concerns for Antonio Conte’s side. All in all this seems a rather clear match to call given the form guide and various trends of goal scoring and defensive solidity for the Blues.
Chelsea may not look as devastating as they did against Everton or Southampton in recent weeks, but they should have enough to see off their opponents on Sunday without having too much trouble at the back.