Aitor Karanka will be having a special third anniversary at Middlesbrough when they host the in-from Chelsea team at Riverside Stadium on Sunday. He surely expects his players to hand him the perfect present for the occasion by beating the Blues.
The Blues are really on a roll at the moment with their both their manager Antonio Conte and star forward Eden Hazard winning the Premier League manager of the month and the Premier League player of the month respectively. While they are confident of stretching their 5-match winning streak, Boro could really be a stumbling block on their way as they have been for Arsenal and Manchester City previously.
Although Boro are currently 15th in the league table, only 1 point short of the relegation zone, their recent form has seen them salvaging points from the toughest of away games and they surely expect a positive result at home.
Middlesbrough suffered defeats in their last three home matches against Chelsea. They had only won thrice in 12 home matches against Chelsea in all competition alongside 2 draws, while 7 matches ended in defeats.
Middlesbrough- Karanka will continue to miss the services of Spanish centre-back Daniel Ayala who is still returning from his ankle injury and George Friend will miss the game with a knee injury after suffering a knock recently. Apart from that Karanka will have a more or less fit squad to play against Chelsea.
Chelsea- Chelsea got a huge injury boost in the return of midfielder Cesc Fabregas ahead of the fixture and Conte is optimistic that both his in-form players Eden Hazard and Diego Costa will start the game shaking off the injuries they incurred during the international break.
Apart from that, John Obi Mikel and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are also nearing their return but are unlikely to feature in the starting 11 anyway.
Middlesbrough- Valdes; Fabio, Gibson, Chambers, Barragan; De Roon, Foreshaw; Traore, Stuani, Downing; Negredo
Chelsea- Courtois; Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Kante, Matic, Moses; Hazard, Costa, Pedro
Middlesbrough- The biggest threat to Chelsea’s defence, at least physically if not form wise, will be Alvaro Negredo. He will be up against David Luiz and it will be a test of brute strength to a large extent. Although the striker hasn’t been very impressive in front of the goal, he has managed to provide 3 assists. Christian Stuani could be another threat as the centre forward has this knack of scoring under pressure.
Chelsea- Undoubtedly Eden Hazard will be a key player, who has found back his form this season and is quite unstoppable at the moment. The Belgian has scored 7 goals and assisted once so far. Diego Costa, if fit will always be a threat for the opposition. He is currently the top scorer in the Premier League with 9 goals and has assisted thrice. Victor Moses has emerged as an effective wing back, often seen ripping apart defences with ease. It’s just a matter of time before he starts scoring for fun.