Chelsea play Boro as favourites
Chelsea will look to continue their marvellous run of victories when they travel to the northeast to take on Middlesbrough in the Premier League today.
The Blues won all five of their last league games without conceding a single goal after manager Antonio Conte shifted his tactics to include three centre backs, following a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of rivals Arsenal.
Defensive solidity has not been the only positive byproduct of this strategic shift, as the goals have been coming thick and fast as well.
Chelsea have scored 16 goals in those five games, including massive 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Everton and Manchester United respectively.
They have moved up to second place in the Premier League standings, just one point behind pacesetters Liverpool; and all involved with the club will be hoping against hope the recent international break did not halt their momentum.
One of the biggest highlights for the London side has been the return to form of playmaker Eden Hazard, who has scored five goals in their last five games, netting in all but one of the fixtures, and Conte took time out before the match to praise the Belgian international.
“I’m pleased for Eden because he’s playing fantastic football,” he said.
“He’s working very well in the [training] sessions, showing great attitude and commitment.
“He’s a fantastic player; he’s working a lot for the team and it’s fantastic when a player with his talent puts it in for the team. He has the potential to do great things in his career.”
Middlesbrough, on the other hand, would’ve welcomed the recent international break, as they had not been in the best of form in the lead-up to it.
Their last 10 league fixtures have yielded just one win, four draws and five defeats, to see them sitting in 15th position and only one point above the relegation places.
With their guests in such good form and clearly a contender for the Premier League title this season, the Boro probably aren’t looking to this fixture as one they need to win to ensure their survival, but salvaging something from the match will go a long way to proving to their doubters that they deserve a place in England’s top-flight.
“I think Chelsea are definitely one of the favourites for the league, especially as they are not playing Champions League football,” Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka said ahead of the game.
“Chelsea is another tough challenge for us. Antonio Conte is settling in the league very well, but we can show once again how we can compete.”
In team news, the Blues will have a fully fit squad to choose from after both Diego Costa and Hazard recovered from their respective injuries during the international break.
George Friend is missing for the hosts, while Daniel Ayala also misses out through injury, but Gastón Ramírez is back in contention after serving his one-match suspension.
IMPRESSIVE Eden Hazard was named EPL’s player of the month