PREVIEW - EFL Cup Semi Final Second Leg: Chelsea v Middlesbrough

Published on 23 January 2024 at 16:00


Middlesbrough recorded a crucial 1-0 win at the Riverside in the first leg against a Chelsea side who were very wasteful infront of goal. The West London club had 18 shots at Thomas Glover's goal, which is the most registered at the Riverside without scoring in any away game this season. 

Chelsea have only had one Premier League game, a 1-0 win against Fulham, since the first leg and have been handed 10 days to prepare for the second leg showdown against Middlesbrough. 

Meanwhile Middlesbrough have played two Championship games, a 3-1 victory over Millwall and an uninspiring draw against Rotherham on Saturday which has left them just 75 hours in comparison before tonight's game.

The 1-1 stalemate against Rotherham has been costly for Michael Carrick, influential wing-back Isiah Jones suffered a hamstring strain and is a doubt for tonight while veteran skipper Jonny Howson is also in a race against time to reach full fitness after sustaining a knock at the weekend.

New signing Luke Ayling, midfielder Finn Azaz and striker Sam Greenwood are all cup tied, while Riley McGree and Sam Silvera are absent due to international duty at the Asian Cup.


Chelsea's injury list continues to grow, Mauricio Pochettino confirmed last week that Christopher N'Kunku has suffered yet another setback in his recovery from a hip injury. The latest absentee is in form full-back Malo Gusto who has impressed deputising for Reece James at right-back in recent weeks and it is likely Axel Disasi or Alfie Gilchrist will feature as replacement in the second-leg.

The five time winners of the competition are boosted by the return to fitness for duo Ben Chilwell and Carney Chukwuemeka, both played a cameo role in the win against Fulham and have had two weeks of training to fully recover. 

However, Marc Cucurella, Reece James, Lesley Ugochukwu, Romeo Lavia, Wesley Fofana and goalkeeper Robert Sanchez are all still sidelined. This means Djordje Petrovic will most likely play his ninth consecutive game as Chelsea's number one.

Forward Nicolas Jackson is unavailable, currently starring for Senegal at AFCON which means Pochettino will have to decide to either play a false nine in Cole Palmer or select Armando Broja who gives Chelsea a target man upfront with his aerial prowess and stature.

Middlesbrough face a Chelsea side who are unbeaten in their last eight matches at Stamford Bridge and have three successive wins in the Premier League for the first time since October 2023.

The Blues are on a excellent streak against Middlesbrough, unbeaten in 21 games at home against them. Although, Chelsea squandered three golden opportunities in the first leg with star player Cole Palmer misfiring in front of goal in that game, but the 21 year old has three goals and two assists in his last five appearances.

It is predicted that Michael Carrick will change from an orthodox 4-3-2-1 and revert to a 5-4-2 in an attempt to defend their one goal advantage. In the last five matches between these two side there has been no draws, and Chelsea cannot afford a stalemate tonight if they want to reach their tenth final of the competition.

Middlesbrough executed the counter-attack perfectly in the first leg, exploiting Chelsea's defensive vulnerability on the break and this should be their plan for the second leg. Chelsea have conceded an average of 1.48 goals per game this season and while they will smother Middlesbrough with possession tonight if they can't take their chances it will invite the Championship side to grab a crucial second goal.

Prediction: 2-0 Chelsea

Chelsea have built momentum in recent weeks, and even though they still lack structural fluidity and composure in front of goal their quality should overpower Middlesbrough tonight. Moises Caicedo has transitioned into a key player for Pochettino recently, with his ball recoveries and distribution and paired alongside an in form Connor Gallagher and Enzo Fernandez Chelsea should bully Middlesbrough in midfield. 


Head to Head:

Chelsea - 57 wins

Draws - 32 draws

Middlesbrough - 29 wins


Written by Lewis Eadie

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