Chelsea host Middlesbrough and seek redemption in the second-leg of their EFL Cup semi-final tie…
In my preview for the first leg, I mentioned Cole Palmer is still very much a work in progress and that verdict couldn’t be vindicated anymore by the performance that followed. Palmer’s assortment of misses was a very painful watch that included a 6-yard miss into orbit after Boro goalkeeper Tom Glover’s gloves couldn’t keep hold on the ball.
I felt for the Chelsea forward after those 90 minutes, but scoring the winner against Fulham most recently will surely lift his confidence up for redemption in the second-leg of this semi-final tie. With key forward partner Jackson away on international duty with Senegal, whether Palmer can take advantage of the resources he’s given could be the deciding factor in whether the Blues make it to Wembley or not.
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Chelsea v Middlesbrough
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JAN 2024 EFL Cup Middlesbrough 1-0 Chelsea
MAR 2022 FA CUP Middlesbrough 0-2 Chelsea
MAY 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Chelsea 3-0 Middlesbrough
NOV 2016 PREMIER LEAGUE Middlesbrough 0-1 Chelsea
Despite being 12 points apart, Chelsea have had comparable issues to Arsenal in front of goal lately demonstrated by matches where their Expected Goals should indicate a wide-margin victory but often instead show an unconvincing three points and a plethora of missed chances.
Similar to Arsenal also, it could be the case that a long layoff between matches in January could be the key to overcoming some of those matters, just as we saw in the Gunners’ 5-0 display against Crystal Palace.
Every time I think Chelsea are turning a corner it backfires on me but the next two games across both domestic cups could be the chance to show Stamford Bridge hopefuls that the club’s chances for silverware haven’t been totally written off.
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Middlesbrough played with serious purpose in the first leg and a back three that utilised Josh Coburn and Morgan Rogers’ simultaneous forward momentum to power past the likes of Axel Disasi and Levi Colwill on Chelsea’s left. This was especially effective in the first half which saw the home side’s possession at nearly double the amount compared to the second half.
The winning goal came from Hayden Hackney who made a blinding run but looked to be tracked back by Moises Caicedo until the Ecuadorian fatally stopped tracking the Boro midfielder when it mattered most who received the ball from Isaiah Jones, and sunk it accordingly past Petrovic.
Michael Carrick’s trip to London likely won’t be as rewarding as the home fixture was, illustrated foremost by the muscle injury to top Boro forward and aforementioned Isiah Jones. Pressure will therefore be on Morgan Rogers and Josh Coburn to deliver the winning formula that is likely required to progress to Wembley, as I can’t forsee Chelsea’s attacking efforts proving fruitless for a second time.
Combine that vital injury loss with their bitterly disappointing defeat at home to Rotherham who sit rock bottom in the Championship just three days ago, life certainly isn’t as bright coming into the second leg.
Pochettino is sure to fire up a full-strength squad against a battle-scarred Middlesbrough from the weekend and I’m hoping that Chelsea can match Arsenal’s proficiency in front of goal after a layoff to reflect on their errors. I’m backing Chelsea to win both halves at 29/20 with starsports.bet.
BACK Chelsea to win both halves 2pts at 29/20 (⭐
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