So, we go into the game against Boro a few players lighter thanks to the internationals, trying to protect our unbeaten run under Scolari. The smoggies on the other hand, go into this one hoping to maintain the winning start they made in October following a pretty poor return the previous month which saw them lose all four league and cup games.
A win for Boro would take their total Premier League points under Gareth Southgate to 100 and at the same time, record Chelsea’s 100th away defeat in the Premier League and whilst Southgate believes his side shouldn’t really have a hope against us, he insists they can get the win. He has a fair point, considering their record against the ‘big four’, particularly with Chelsea succumbing in two of their last three visits to the Riverside. Southgate says “We have got to accept that Chelsea keep the ball better than the teams we have played so far this season. They have got some special players but if we stand there and admire them they will have a field day so we have to make sure we give them one hell of a game. We had a spell last year where we went a long period without a win and we ended that by beating Arsenal, so we know we are capable of winning any game we go into and we have probably dealt with the recent spell a bit better. They [Chelsea] are an outstanding team and by rights we should have no chance, but football on any given day doesn’t work out like that and we are capable of producing performances.”
On the injury front for Boro, former Chelsea defender Robert Huth misses out with and ankle ligament injury and Julio Arca continues to recover from an ankle injury although Andrew Taylor (hip) and Mido (groin) are both fit to play. Emanuel Pogatetz misses out through suspension, so hopefully that’ll mean a few less injuries for Chelsea.
Talking of Chelsea injuries, despite initials fears we’d be fielding a reserve eleven for this one, it looks as if at least half our first team will make it. The news seems to be that John Terry, Alex, Jose Bosingwa and Deco have all been passed fit. Petr Cech, Michael Ballack and Ashley Cole however join Ricardo Carvalho, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien on the missing list. There doesn’t seem to be much news on either Joe Cole or Nicolas Anelka, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see on those two.
Not that Luiz Felipe Scolari will be trying to use injuries as an excuse if things don’t go our way in this one, because the Brazilian says “I won’t consider a draw a good result despite the injuries — I want to win. I’m not annoyed about it, I’m happy. It is a test for me that I am a good coach and I need to improve. I have to put other players into the team and I need to get the best out of them. This is good for my work.”
Mido – back in action for Boro, the controversial striker could be looking to get himself back on the goal trail against a defensive pairing returning from injury.
Obi Mikel – our defensive midfielder’s presence, just like Makelele before him, is often overlooked when it comes to looking at key players but this could be a game where his contribution makes the difference.
Boro go into this game looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since the final two games last season. They’ve won the last two home games against London clubs in the Premier League but have won only one game in 16 against the ‘big four’. Boro have conceded one goal in each of their last four home games in the league although haven’t conceded a first-half goal so far this campaign. The smoggies have completed 32 top-flight games without a goalless draw and need just 2 more goals to total 6,000 in their English League history. They go into this game in 12th place in the Premier League with 9 points.
Chelsea go into this game unbeaten in 28 Premier League games (won 20, drawn 8) and remain the only club unbeaten in the Premier League this calendar year (won 18, drawn 7). Chelsea are looking for a 7th consecutive away win to take their unbeaten away run to 14 games and defend the Premier League’s only 100% away record. Chelsea have scored in each of their last 19 games and it’s been 38 games in the top flight since they’ve lost by more than a single goal. They’ve conceded just one goal in the last six away wins and have scored twice as many goals as Boro so far. Chelsea have won their last 3 games in the North-East and haven’t lost their since August 2006 – to Boro. Chelsea go into this game in 1st place with 17 points.
HEAD TO HEAD
No club has gained more points against Boro in the Premier League than Chelsea (51). Boro were one of 8 clubs Chelsea did the double over last season and Chelsea will be keen to take their winning streak over Boro to 4 games.
Home And Away
League (inc PL): Middlesbrough 28 wins, Chelsea 45 wins, Draws 29
Prem: Middlesbrough 5 wins, Chelsea 15 wins, Draws 6
At Middlesbrough Only
League (inc PL): 23 wins, Chelsea 12 wins, Draws 16
Prem: Middlesbrough 5 wins, Chelsea 5 wins, Draws 3
Middlesbrough 0 – 2 Chelsea
Chelsea scorers: Drogba 8, Alex 57
20 December 2007 – Ref: Mark Halsey
I don’t know why but I’ve always felt really uneasy about games against Boro. It should be a foregone conclusion against someone like Boro but somehow it just never seems to work that way. We’ve still got a pretty decent starting 11 even with the injuries but I can’t help feeling an upset could be on the cards.
MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Turnball, Jones, Hoyte, Taylor, Grounds, Riggott, Wheater, J Johnson, Aliadiere, Emnes, Digard, O’Neil, Shawky, Walker, Downing, A Johnson, Mido, Alves
CHELSEA (from): Cudicini, Hilario, Ferreira, Bridge, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Mancienne, Belletti, Mikel, Lampard, Sinclair, Malouda, J Cole?, Stoch, Deco, Anelka?, Kalou
Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)