Chelsea are definitely not the apple of the eye for many teams right now with situation not being very pleasant for the Blues. Now before their next match, they have entered a verbal war with their opponents in the FA Cup game, Middlesbrough. The quarter-finals draw now has much more significance than it was meant to be.
WHERE AND WHEN?
Venue: Riverside Stadium.
Date: Saturday, 19th March 2022.
Time: 18:15 (BST).
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Assistant referee: Richard West & Daniel Robathan.
Fourth official: Kevin Friend.
VAR: Andrew Madley.
Assistant VAR: Simon Bennett.
Chris Wilder will be a happy man entering the fixture as not only does he has some new injury concerns but will also welcome back Sporar and Siliki back in the squad. The only concern will be the continued absence of McGree and Payero who will be missing this crucial tie.
Thomas Tuchel though still continues to fight against the injury concerns in the squad as Christensen was forced out in their last game and thus is out for this game. Saul Niguez confirmed recently that he missed Chelsea’s trip to Lille as he tested positive for the virus and will be out of this clash too. Reece James did train with Chelsea in their last training session but it looks unlikely that Tuchel might force him in the squad and there is not much certainty over Hudson-Odoi as well. Ben Chilwell is obviously out of this clash.
The match did start before actually, the match has started. There were concerns of how will Chelsea travel with the government restrictions imposed but the squad has come up well together and are all ready to win it all. But the club is still concerned over their fans not being able to travel and watch the games and hence did issue an appeal to the FA to conduct the match behind close doors. This did not go well with Middlesbrough FC Chairman, Steve Gibson. He was very vocal about the same and did also have some harsh words for his compatriot Bruce Buck at Chelsea.
This definitely has ignited the furiousness in the match and the players have to be the final verdict makers on who will have the final laugh. Middlesbrough’s players and manager though must be much more focused on the tie as they hope to continue their dream run in the FA Cup. They have already knocked out two giants in form of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs and now they have an eye on Chelsea. The challenge will not be easy against the current Club World Cup Champions who are known to step-up in the knockout games. Chris Wilder is not an unfamiliar name in the English Football circuit and has enough experience to get the best out of his team and force Chelsea to make mistakes at his own backyard.
Chelsea have to right now face things off the field before they enter the field. The players and staff have kept their heads in place and have just united well against all the shouts against them recently and now have another challenge for them. They will have to decide their mode of travel as they are entrapped in a bubble of uncertainty. But, kudos to Thomas Tuchel, the team looks ready for the challenge and have never showed a pinch of what is happening off the pitch in their game on the pitch. They are in some good momentum after recent wins with last one ensuring a place in the Last 8 of the Champions League. Despite many injuries, Chelsea have competed well with the great squad depth they have and now will look to overpower another obstacle and reach another semi-final under Thomas Tuchel.
Middlesbrough would have definitely not imagined to get better of two European giants in the same season but they have done this to be in last 8 of the FA Cup. They are just one step away from a game in Wembley and could actually do it with the squad they have. Matt Crooks has been the man in the campaign as they continue to live the dream as the English midfielder has goal contribution in the games against Manchester United and Spurs. Scoring the goal by being in the right spot at the right time and then laying off a great ball to assist his team’s only goal against Spurs certainly proves his worth. In this season of the Championship, he has already registered 10 goal contributions as the side fights for a play-off spot in the Championship.
The last knockout game for Kepa was a very tough one as the manager brought him on against Liverpool for the penalties in the Carabao Cup final but eventually it was his penalty that was the decider of the game. Since then, the man has been under scrutiny since then and looks for an opportunity to redeem. The man has been a well-improved stopper since Tuchel’s arrival and has been their keeper in the cup games. He might be given the nod yet again in the cup game and could step up well. Kepa is one of the key people in this FA Cup campaign as Chelsea have struggled a bit defensively but he has been on point to get the better of the opposition and guide them to wins.
Middlesbrough predicted XI: Lumley; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair; Jones, Tavernier, Howson, Crooks, Taylor; Balogun, Connolly.
Chelsea predicted XI: Kepa; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Werner; Lukaku.