Middlesbrough host Chelsea at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday evening in an FA Cup quarter-final. These sides met in the 1997 FA Cup final as the Blues won 2-0. Chelsea have won eight consecutive matches against Boro but face a side who have eliminated Man Utd and Tottenham from this year’s competition.
Boro beat Man Utd in the fourth round on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation time. The last round saw them beat Tottenham at home after an extra-time winner. Chris Wilder’s team sits seventh in the EFL Championship, only outside the playoff spots on goal difference.
Their four matches since knocking Spurs out of the FA Cup have seen two wins, one loss, and one draw. A 2-1 home win against Luton was followed by a 4-1 thrashing at Wilder’s former club, Sheffield United. They then drew 0-0 at Millwall before winning 2-0 at Birmingham last time out. On-loan strikers Falorin Balogun and Aaron Connolly netted the goals.
Middlesbrough Team News
Wilder is expected to select his best XI for this match. He has been using a 3-5-2 formation and will naturally be able to match up to Chelsea. Anfernee Dijksteel returned from injury in the back three against Birmingham, replacing Lee Peltier.
Riley Riley McGree and Martin Payero are both absent with injuries. Duncan Watmore is an option upfront and Sol Bamba at the back if Wilder decides to rotate his XI.
Boro are hugely motivated for this match and will be desperate to beat the European Champions, especially after a recent appeal by the Blues to have this tie played behind closed doors.
Wilder will set his side up to be solid and to use their pace on the counter-attack. Expect to see the coach’s usual innovations like overlapping center-backs.
Chelsea reached the quarter-final after beating Chesterfield, Plymouth, and Luton. The side are churning out wins with 11 victories in their last 12 in all competitions. That streak saw just one draw, the Carabao Cup final 0-0 draw against Liverpool (before losing on penalties).
Thomas Tuchel has seen his side lose just once in 25 matches. Away from home, Chelsea have won six matches in a row. Their last two matches saw a late 1-0 home win against Newcastle before winning 2-1 away at Lille. Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta scored the goals.
Chelsea Team News
Chelsea are without Ben Chilwell and have doubts over Reece James, Andreas Christensen, Saul Niguez and Ross Barkley are all doubtful. Two older players in Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante are unlikely to play again after the away match in France so Malang Sarr and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are pushing for minutes.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is set to replace Edouard Mendy in goal. Romelu Lukaku will be hoping to start after scoring in the last round. Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech are other options to freshen up the attack.
Chelsea are showing a very high level of focus despite off-field distractions. The side tends to play with full motivation in cup matches and will want to reach another semi-final at Wembley.
With just 800 Blues fans allowed to attend the match, Tuchel’s side will face an intimidating atmosphere. He may look to focus on slower ball rotation to quieten the crowd and wear Boro down.
Middlesbrough have lost 3 of their last 5 away matches
Boro have kept 2 clean sheets in a row
Middlesbrough have lost their last 8 matches against Chelsea
Chelsea have won 11 of their last 12 matches (all comps) & 6 in a row on the road
Chelsea have lost 2 of their last 38 matches (all comps)
CFC have kept 7 clean sheets in their last 12 matches
Kai Havertz has scored 6 goals in his last 8 matches
This should be an intense and exciting FA Cup tie. Boro have a real chance of an upset thanks to facing a Chelsea side who will have difficult travel from Lille to London and then to the North East. With some Blues rotation, they may struggle to win in 90 minutes.
Best Bet: Both teams to score at 1.80
Value Bet: Draw (90 minutes) at 4.15
Alternative Bet: Chelsea win and Havertz anytime goalscorer at 1.95