Date: Saturday 19th March 2022
Venue: Riverside Stadium
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Another day, another tough crowd, mostly Middlesbrough obviously, because we’ll be thin on the ground. They’re a bit tetchy with us about the request to play behind closed doors, although to be fair, it is an FA Cup quarter final, and they haven’t had one of those since the 2016-17 season. Well, that and the fact it was a ridiculous request to start with.
Anyway, they’ll be ready to give us a game.
Middlesbrough are in good shape in the cup, having already dispatched with Manchester United and Sp*rs to get into the quarterfinals. They’re unbeaten in nine games at home, conceding just four goals in that run, and they come into the game off the back of a 2-0 win against Birmingham City in the league.
We got to this stage with a tough 3-2 win against Luton after wins against Chesterfield and Plymouth and we’re on a run of five wins away from home in all competitions. We beat Newcastle in the Premier League last weekend and Lille away midweek to progress to the last eight in the Champions League (much to everyone’s disappointment), and if the relentless fixtures don’t catch up with us, all the Easy Jet trips soon might.
Middlesbrough have looked intent on reaching their first semi-final since 2005-06 and they’ll be trying to match the hostility levels set by the journalists, pundits and politicians to date. So, aching joints from insufficient leg room aside, if we want to make the semi-final for the third season in succession, we will need our wits about us from start to finish this evening.
Going into today’s game, Middlesbrough manager Chris Wilder, says “I don’t want to disrespect Chelsea, they did great things during Covid. Thomas has conducted himself amazingly this week – it’s been no surprise. I met him last season after a match and he spent 45 mins in the office chatting with my staff. That’s unique. World class operator.
I’m sure the occasion, the emotion of playing in the quarter-final of the FA Cup against European champions and World champions, the environment, the atmosphere, it will give our players a lot of energy. So that doesn’t bother or worry me. We can just go and give it a real good go.”
Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, says “I expect an FA Cup atmosphere, and I don’t think there’s any need for anything more hostile… and especially not in these times. Football is the opposite of war, football is about the love of game, passion, respecting your opponent, and supporting your own team. This is what we expect; an emotional stadium, emotional crowd. We love the competition, I love the FA Cup, so we expect a tough away match against a strong team. And not more than that. But this is what we expect, and it will be a challenge for us.”
For Middlesbrough, Riley McGree, Martin Payero, Darnell Fisher and Sammy Ameobi remain out, but Andraz Sporar and James Lea Siliki return from illness.
For Chelsea, Ben Chilwell (knee), remains our long-term absentee, Andreas Christensen is a major doubt after coming off against Lille midweek, Reece James (muscular) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (Achilles) are also doubts, whilst Saul Niguez and Ross Barkley have covid.
MIDDLESBROUGH (Possible line-up): Lumley; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair; Jones, Tavernier, Howson, Crooks, Taylor; Balogun, Connolly
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Kepa; Chalobah, Rudiger; Sarr, Pulisic, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso; Mount, Werner, Lukaku
CURRENT FORM (ALL)
- Middlesbrough won back-to-back Premier League games against Chelsea in 2006.
- Middlesbrough have lost their last eight matches with Chelsea in all competitions without scoring.
- Middlesbrough have never won against reigning European champions in 20 attempts.
- Middlesbrough are appearing in their first FA Cup quarter-final since 2016/17.
- Middlesbrough have been eliminated at this stage on the last four occasions they have reached the final eight
- Middlesbrough have eliminated two Premier League clubs en route to the quarterfinals.
Sportsmole: Middlesbrough 0-2 Chelsea