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Middlesbrough vs Chelsea: Preview ahead of Carabao Cup Cup semi-final

Middlesbrough and Chelsea will aim to stamp one foot in the Carabao Cup final with victory when they face off at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday. 

Cole-Palmer chelsea

Middlesbrough and Chelsea will aim to stamp one foot in the Carabao Cup final with victory when they face off at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday. 

The Blues, despite facing challenges throughout the season, are considered favorites to advance to next month’s Wembley showpiece against their mid-table Championship opponents.

Mauricio Pochettino, despite his past dismissive stance on domestic cups during his tenure at Tottenham, understands the significance of securing an early trophy for himself and the squad. Recognizing Chelsea’s underwhelming performances this season, Pochettino is well aware that the upcoming clash against Michael Carrick’s side is no assured victory.

Following Middlesbrough’s commendable performance against Aston Villa in the FA Cup tie, Carrick appeared relatively upbeat despite the eventual defeat. Boro, currently positioned in the second half of the table at 12th, resisted any onslaught against the Villains until the 87th minute, when a deflected Matty Cash strike secured victory for Villa under the guidance of cup specialist Unai Emery.

Amidst varied reactions amongst Boro fans due to Cash’s goal finding its way into the net, Middlesbrough could indeed contemplate the positives stemming from that solitary-goal loss. It marked the third defeat in four matches for Carrick’s side across different competitions.

In the ongoing 2023-24 EFL Cup campaign, the hosts have been eloquent with their attacking flair. Progressing through encounters against Huddersfield Town, Exeter City, Bolton Wanderers, Bradford City, and most recently Port Vale, they’ve secured a spot in the semifinals. Notably, they managed to score a minimum of two goals in each of these triumphs, all achieved away from their home turf.

Despite their past success in reaching the EFL Cup semifinals, Middlesbrough’s track record in home fixtures of this tournament raises eyebrows. While they navigated past the last three semifinal ties, their home performances in the competition have been less favorable, witnessing defeats in four of the last five such encounters.

As the EFL Cup semi-finals unfold across two legs, Carrick’s side will aim to contain Chelsea and secure a coveted trip to Wembley. Boro have a rich history in the EFL Cup, finishing as runners-up in 1996/97 and 1997/98 before clinching the trophy in 2003/04. In the 1997/98 final, Chelsea emerged victorious with a 2-0 win, while Boro triumphed over Bolton in Cardiff in 2003/04.

For Chelsea, they experienced a momentary lapse in their attacking prowess during the clash against Preston at Stamford Bridge on Saturday night. Pochettino’s team faced challenges unlocking Ryan Lowe’s resilient defense in the first half. However, the second half showcased a spectacular turn of events.

Armando Broja initiated the second-half onslaught with a delicately guided header into the bottom corner. Thiago Silva added to the scoreline with a header at the near post, followed by Raheem Sterling’s crisp free-kick and Enzo Fernandez’s close-range tap-in, securing a resounding four-goal victory.

While Middlesbrough have exclusively played away in this season’s EFL Cup, Chelsea’s victories against AFC Wimbledon, Blackburn Rovers, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Newcastle all unfolded in front of the Stamford Bridge faithful. However, Chelsea have struggled in away matches, losing five of their last eight in all competitions.

Despite this, Chelsea’s dominance over Middlesbrough is evident, with a nine-match winning streak, including a 2-0 victory in the 2021-22 FA Cup. Fans who buy Chelsea tickets will be confident of securing a positive result tomorrow and finishing the job at Stamford Bridge.

While Chelsea pose a formidable challenge for Middlesbrough, the unpredictability of cup fixtures has historically produced shocks and heartbreaks, making the outcome uncertain.

Middlesbrough v Chelsea match details

Location: Middlesbrough, England

Stadium: Riverside Stadium

Date: Tuesday 9 January

Kick-off time: 8 pm GMT, 1:30 PM IST

Referee: Sam Barrott

Assistant referee: Simon Bennett and Daniel Robatha

Match stats and head-to-head

  • Middlesbrough have been goalless in their previous nine encounters against Chelsea.
  • Chelsea secured 2-0 victories in their last two cup clashes with Middlesbrough.
  • Among those eyeing goals for Chelsea in the EFL Cup is Cole Palmer, who has impressively netted seven times across various competitions since joining from Manchester City.
  • Chelsea have triumphed in their last two EFL Cup semi-finals.
  • The Blues boast an unbeaten streak of 27 cup games against lower-league opponents.
  • Chelsea’s disciplinary concerns persist, averaging 3.10 cards per game in the Premier League this season, contrasting with Middlesbrough’s Championship average of 1.76.
  • Chelsea have dominated the recent head-to-head, winning the last nine games against Middlesbrough with an aggregate score of 21-0. The most recent triumph occurred in the 2021/22 season, securing a 2-0 win at the Riverside in the FA Cup.
  • All four of Chelsea’s victories against AFC Wimbledon, Blackburn Rovers, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Newcastle have been at Stamford Bridge.
  • Chelsea have faced defeats in five of their last eight away matches in the competition.
  • Middlesbrough have progressed from each of their last three EFL Cup semi-final ties, with a notable victory in the 2003-04 edition after stunning Arsenal in the last four.
  • However, four of their last five home games in the tournament have seen Boro on the wrong end of the scoreline.
  • Chelsea have won the last nine games against Middlesbrough, maintaining clean sheets in all encounters since two consecutive league defeats in 2006.
  • Chelsea have alternated between lower-league and Premier League opposition in the EFL Cup this season, triumphing against AFC Wimbledon, Brighton, Blackburn, and Newcastle to reach the semi-finals, securing the latter victory on penalties.
  • Chelsea have won the EFL Cup five times, with their last success in 2014/15 against Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.
  • Since then, the Blues have suffered two final losses, falling to Manchester City and Liverpool in 2018/19 and 2021/22, respectively, both in penalty shootouts.
  • Starting in the first round, Middlesbrough have overcome Huddersfield, Bolton, Bradford, Exeter, and Port Vale.
  • The 1997/98 final saw Boro defeated 2-0 by Chelsea, and they clinched victory over Bolton in Cardiff in 2003/04.
  • After their 2003/04 triumph, Middlesbrough have reached the quarter-final stage only five times, making the current season’s run a positive achievement.

Boro v Chelsea team news

In the latest chapter of Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino’s campaign, a familiar storyline unfolds as they face the challenge of yet another injury concern. Christopher Nkunku, who seems to be a magnet for setbacks, is now at risk of another stint on the sidelines. Armando Broja, having found the net in the recent FA Cup fixture, is poised to retain his place in the lineup.

On the casualty list, Ben Chilwell who has been nursing a hamstring woe and  Carney Chukwuemeka who has been grappling with a knee issue, have both returned to partial team training but it remains to be seen if the semi final clash on Tuesday will come too soon for the duo.

Benoit Badiashile is sidelined with a knock.

The absence of Reece James due to a hamstring problem, Wesley Fofana recovering from a knee injury, and Marc Cucurella nursing an ankle ailment further depletes Chelsea’s defensive options. The goalkeeping ranks are also affected, with Robert Sanchez out due to a knee concern.

Additional setbacks include Lesley Ugochukwu nursing a hamstring injury, Trevoh Chalobah grappling with a thigh problem, and Romeo Lavia on the sidelines with a thigh issue. Further complicating matters, Andrey Santos is ineligible after featuring for Nottingham Forest in the League Cup earlier in the season, and Ian Maatsen’s potential absence looms as he contemplates a loan move to Borussia Dortmund.

Michael Carrick faces his own set of challenges in shaping Boro’s lineup. The suspension of Morgan Rodgers, coupled with the cup-tied status of Finn Azaz limits his midfield options.

Samuel Silvera and Riley McGree are unavailable due to their commitments in the Asian Cup, and Seny Dieng’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal further thins Carrick’s choices between the posts.

While no fresh injury concerns emerged over the weekend, the unavailability of Tom Smith due to an Achilles issue, Darragh Lenihan recovering from an Achilles injury, Lewis O’Brien nursing an ankle problem, Marcus Forss contending with a thigh ailment, and Patrick McNair sidelined with a back concern persist, leaving Carrick with a challenging selection process.

Predicted starting line-up

Boro predicted starting line-up: Glover; van den Berg, Clarke, Engel, Coulson; Fry, Barlaser; Jones, Latte Lath, Greenwood; Coburn

Chelsea predicted starting line-up: Petrovic; Gusto, Disasi, Silva, Colwil; Caicedo, Fernandez, Gallagher; Palmer, Sterling; Broja

Prediction

Middlesbrough showcased their resilience against an impressive Aston Villa side in the FA Cup on Saturday, pushing their opponents until the 88th minute when Matty Cash’s late goal secured victory for Villa. Despite the defeat, Boro’s spirited performance against a strong side provides a source of optimism for their upcoming encounter against Chelsea.

On the other hand, Chelsea experienced a lackluster first half against Preston in the FA Cup, but their considerable quality came to the forefront in the second half. The Blues will likely approach the away leg at the Riverside with a strategic mindset, aiming for a favorable result before the return fixture in London.

Looking ahead, Chelsea aim to build momentum in the first leg, setting the stage for a potential smooth progression at Stamford Bridge. Their formidable record of being unbeaten in the past six matches across all competitions at Stamford Bridge adds to their confidence as they seek success in the EFL Cup semi-final.

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