CHELSEA v Middlesbrough: Preview

Date: Monday 8th May, 2017
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick-off: 20:00 BST

Last week’s emphatic win at Goodison Park felt like we’d laid down our marker for the run-in. Most of us will have expected Spurs to follow it with a win over Arsenal and yet another little ride around town on their victory bus, metaphorically at least, but what we might not all have expected was for them to follow that by dropping 3 points against West Ham Friday night.
Not that anything has changed for us in terms of the points as such, because we remain 4 ahead at the top of the table. Tonight though, we have the opportunity to increase that gap to 7 points, which would leave us just one win away from the title. First though, we need to get past Middlesbrough and whilst they’ve been pretty grim this season, we have to remember they’re fighting for their Premier League lives and held City to a draw last time out.
With Luiz and Kante both likely to be missing for this one, the fat lady may not start clearing her lungs just yet.

MANAGER’S VIEWS
Going into tonight’s game Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, says “I can see the right concentration, the right focus, about my players. Don’t forget we started this season with a lot of problems and now we have a fantastic possibility to reach a great target and win the Premier League, and also to play the FA Cup final. These two big targets for us are very, very important, the most important things for us.”
Middlesbrough manager Steve Agnew meanwhile, says “We’ll have one eye on the Hull result, but there’s nothing we can do to affect that. Of course, if it goes our way then we’ll look forward to Monday. I would say that we’ve not had much luck this season. If that comes our way over the next few days, then it’s something we’ll take.”

SQUAD NEWS
For Chelsea, David Luiz and N’Golo Kante are doubts.
For Middlesbrough, Gaston Ramirez is likely to miss out with a pelvic problem, while Victor Valdes and Daniel Ayala remain doubts although Grant Leadbitter (hamstring) and Adlene Guedioura (groin) could be involved.

TEAMS
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Cahill; Moses, Fabregas, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard
MIDDLESBROUGH (Possible line-up): Guzan; Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend; De Roon, Clayton, Forshaw; Downing, Negredo, Ramirez

LAST SEASON
N/A

RECENT FORM
CHELSEA: WWLWW
MIDDLESBROUGH: DWLLD

OTHER STUFF
~ Chelsea have won seven successive meetings without conceding a goal, including the last six in the League
~ Middlesbrough have gone 18 league matches without a win at Stamford Bridge
~ Middlesbrough have only scored five times in the last 18 games in the league at Stamford Bridge
~ Middlesbrough haven’t scored in their last seven visits against Chelsea
~ Chelsea are vying for a 13th Premier League home win in 14 attempts.
~ Chelsea could keep consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since January.
~ Chelsea are the division’s highest scorers with 72 goals prior to the weekend fixtures.
~ Middlesbrough could be relegated from the Premier League for a record-equalling fourth time.
~ Middlesbrough’s only league win in 18 games since Christmas came at home to relegated Sunderland last month.
~ Middlesbrough have not won an away match in 16 attempts since the second weekend of the season, losing five of the last six.
~ Middlesbrough are the division’s joint-lowest scorers ahead of the week with 26 goals, the same as Sunderland.

PREDICTION
BBC Sport: Chelsea 3-0 Middlesbrough
Sky Sports: Chelsea 3-1 Middlesbrough
SportsMole: Chelsea 2-0 Middlesbrough

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