SUNDAY'S solitary Premier League game sees Middlesbrough and Chelsea meet at the Riverside. Willie Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) previews the game for us.
Middlesbrough v Chelsea | Sunday 16:00 | Sky Sports 1
When Chelsea crumbled to a 3-0 defeat against Arsenal back in September, Antonio Conte and his team certainly had their doubters. As Arsenal ran riot in north London, Blues backers were forced to reflect on a risible return of just one point from three matches – with that solitary point coming from a 2-2 draw against struggling Swansea City in south Wales.
Chelsea's resurgence since then, though, has been every bit as spectacular as it has been surprising; the west Londoners have won each of their last five Premier League fixtures, scoring 16 goals and conceding none.
That remarkable run of results includes thumping wins against Manchester United (4-0) and Everton (5-0); against such a backdrop, Middlesbrough could be forgiven for feeling a little fearful ahead of Sunday's showdown against the Blues at Riverside Stadium.
Aitor Karanka's team, however, are unlikely to spend Saturday night shaking in their boots, for after a stuttering start to the season, ‘Boro have enjoyed something of a mini-revival of their own.
There was a hard-fought goalless draw against Arsenal in north London, a first home win of the season – against AFC Bournemouth – and a bonus point – procured in a 1-1 draw against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium courtesy of Marten de Roon's late leveller.
Middlesbrough are certainly solid enough – just three goals conceded in their last five fixtures testifies to that – but Karanka's charges may lack sufficient bite to make life too uncomfortable for the visitors on Sunday afternoon.
There have been fewer than three goals scored in each of ‘Boro's last five fixtures, as well as in both of Chelsea's two most recent victories on the road and the 10/11 quote for fewer than three goals to be scored is tempting, while the 4/5 quote for either side to fail to ripple the rigging is not without appeal.
Instead, though, I'm going to side with another trend to continue and back the Blues to win to nil for a sixth successive fixture in the Premier League.
Conte's stewardship has brought Chelsea much-needed defensive discipline and the 29/20 quote on offer from Bet Stars for the west Londoners to win without conceding is too big to resist ahead of Sunday's showdown.
Middlesbrough v Chelsea – Chelsea to win to nil (29/20 Bet Stars)