Middlesbrough vs Chelsea Preview: Can Boro stop Conte's rampant Blues?

Middlesbrough have been defeated once in their last five, whereas Chelsea have won all of their previous five.

Middlesbrough vs Chelsea Preview: Can Boro stop Conte's rampant Blues?
Grant Leadbitter closes down Ramires when the clubs faced off in the FA Cup in 2013 | Photo: GettyImages/Darren Walsh

Chelsea travel to the Riverside Stadium for the first time in the league since 2008, looking for the win that would see them go above first placed Liverpool.

Middlesbrough will be looking to build on previous performances where they have beaten Bournemouth and drawn away at Arsenal and Manchester City.

How have they done so far?

Middlesbrough currently sit 15th in the Premier League table, but Aitor Karanka's side have had games where they should've picked up points (e.g. home losses against Crystal Palace and Watford)

Karanka said earlier in the year that he would take 17th place at the end of the season, but if his side can keep up performances like those at the Emirates and the Etihad Stadium they might be looking further up the table.

After an unbeaten start with draws against Stoke City and West Brom coming either side of a win at Sunderland, fans in the North East were being optimistic for a successful return to top flight football.

Cristhian Stuani celebrates scoring his second during a 2-1 victory at Sunderland | Photo: GettyImages/Stu Forster
Cristhian Stuani celebrates scoring his second during a 2-1 victory at Sunderland | Photo: GettyImages/Stu Forster

A run of three consecutive losses did damped spirits at Middlesbrough,  but after one loss in five now things are starting to look up for Boro fans.

Things do not get easier for Teessiders, however, as after tomorrow's match against Chelsea, a visit to the reigning champions Leicester and a home game against Liverpool are upcoming in the next two weeks.

Chelsea, on the other hand, are currently thriving under Antonio Conte.

A 100% record with Conte's new 3-4-3 formation has rejuvinated a Chlesea side who had lost against Liverpool and Arsenal within the first weeks of the season.

The former Italy coach was a favourite to be sacked after a 2-1 loss at home at the hands of Liverpool. This poor run of form was actually beneficial for Conte who had an excuse to put his stamp on the Chelsea side.

He did so by changing to his favoured three-at-the-back formation which he used to great effect whilst at the helm of Italy. Another change he made was to bring in Victor Moses out of the cold, and the Nigerian has since impressed in a 'right wing back' position.

The return to form of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have also been pivotal to Chelsea currently sitting in second place in the Premier League table.

Eden Hazard won October's player of the month, his manager Conte won manager of the month too | Photo: GettyImages/Christopher Lee
Eden Hazard won October's player of the month after last month's displays| Photo: GettyImages/Christopher Lee

Previous meetings

The West London side have a very positive record against Middlesbrough, having won the last six meetings against the Teesside outfit.

Aitor Karanka is yet to face Chelsea as a manager, but his side's last victory over the side from Stamford Bridge was in 2006.

Middlesbrough actually beat Chelsea twice in six months, ten years ago, both times coming at the Riverside Stadium.

Fans of Middlesbrough will be pleased that this fixture is at home, as it has been 41 years since Boro have won at Stamford Bridge.

Team news

Middlesbrough will be hoping to name a side as similar to the one who faced Manchester City as possible, with the exception of a possible return for Gaston Ramirez, who was suspended for the Etihad visit.

One concern Karanka has is over the fitness of George Friend who picked up a knock in training.

If Friend is not deemed fit, then it could give former Manchester United full back Fabio his first league start for Middlesbrough.

Chelsea, however, believe to have Diego Costa and Eden Hazard fit for the trip north. Both of these players picked up knocks during the international break.

Before Hazard was believed to be fit, Chelsea paid £30,000 to fly Willian back from international duty with Brazil, so he is expected to play a part in this game.

Predicted Middlesbrough XI: Valdes, Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, de Roon, Forshaw, Traore, Ramirez, Negredo

Predicted Chelsea XI: Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Matic, Kante, Alonso, Pedro, Hazard, Costa