Middlesbrough are in for a potentially tough afternoon when they welcome an in-form Chelsea outfit to the Riverside Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday.
21 November 2016
Kick-off: 00:00 HKT
Venue: Riverside Stadium
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Middlesbrough 91 24 25 42
Chelsea 91 42 25 24
Middlesbrough 0-2 Chelsea(27/02/13) FA Cup
Chelsea goalscorers: Ramires (51′), V. Moses (73′)
Players to watch:
? Training today… ? pic.twitter.com/Kna423GeIV
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 18, 2016
The Blues haven’t conceded a single goal in their last five games and Boro will be looking to lead scorer Cristhian Stuani to achieve the seemingly impossible of putting the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea’s recent resurgence has been in no small part down to the renewed form of playmaker Eden Hazard, who has five goals in their last five games, while Diego Costa is always a goal threat and has bagged nine already this season.
Team form and manager quotes:
AK: "Chelsea is another tough challenge for us. Antonio Conte is settling in the league very well."
— Middlesbrough FC (@Boro) November 18, 2016
Middlesbrough will not be happy with their form in the lead up to the recently concluded international window and have won just once in their last 10 league fixtures.
They find themselves down in 15th position, only one point above the relegation places, but manager Aitor Karanka admits it could prove difficult to turn that around against a strong Chelsea outfit.
“They are definitely one of the favourites to win the league, especially when they are not playing Champions League football, he told the press ahead of the match.
“[Conte] has settled in really well. They’re really consistent, they’re scoring goals and it’s difficult to score against them. They are taking advantage of not playing midweek games in Europe.”
Conte admitted how pleased he was with how things are going at the club currently and used his press conference before the game to single out Hazard for praise.
“He’s working very well in the [training] sessions, showing great attitude and commitment,” the Italian said.
“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.”
Things have been made even tougher for Karanka with the news that defender George Friend is a doubt after injuring his knee in training. Daniel Ayala definitely misses out, but Gaston Ramirez is back in contention after completing his suspension.
Meanwhile, Conte has a fully fit squad to choose from after both Costa and Hazard overcame slight knocks during the international break.