In the previous two seasons of the Premier League the league title had been decided before the 35th game week. Chelsea had won at a canter in the 2014-15 season and Leicester had wrapped up the title in 2015-16 by the first week of May. This season however, there is still a semblance of a title race left even though the involved teams only a handful of matches left to play. At the other end of the table, Sunderland have been relegated but the other two relegation spots are still being fought over. And this Monday, we see the top ranked Chelsea host Middlesbrough who somehow still can escape relegation if the next three games go in their favour.
Chelsea’s title charge received a boost as a rampant Spurs side were thwarted by West Ham at the London Stadium on Friday night. Chelsea who are already four points ahead of Spurs can pull away further by winning on Monday. They will still not have won the title as both they and Spurs will have three games left to play after this game week and a seven-point gap will still be bridgeable. But a win on Monday will definitely put the Blues an arm’s length away from the Premier League trophy. So despite the distracting talk of Diego Costa’s move to China during the week, on Monday Chelsea can be expected to be completely focused on the task at hand.
After earning six points (6 draws) and not winning a single game in the first fourteen matches of 2017, Middlesbrough have managed to win four points in the last two games, winning against Sunderland and creditably drawing against Manchester City. They will need all their reserves of determination if they want to stay up this season. Their run-in is as tough as it gets as Southampton and Liverpool are their last two opponents. Moreover, they will need to play even better than they played versus City at home, as Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this season are tougher opponents and a draw will not suffice. Hull City’s loss to Sunderland on Saturday has thrown a lifeline to Boro but they cannot afford to drop any more points, which for them is far easier said than done.
- Chelsea have won each of their last six Premier League games against Middlesbrough without conceding a single goal.
- Middlesbrough have gone seven Premier League games at Stamford Bridge without scoring, last netting there in September 2001 in a 2-2 draw
- If Chelsea win on Monday, it will be their 300th win at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. Only Manchester United (347) and Arsenal (305) have won more at home in the league
- Middlesbrough have 28 points with three games remaining. The fewest points won by a team to avoid relegation from the Premier League is 34; set by West Bromwich Albion in 2004-05
Eden Hazard has contributed 20 goals out of Chelsea’s total of 72 goals this season, having scored 15 and assisted 5. He has accomplished this in 2699 minutes, meaning that he has scored or assisted a goal every 134 minutes. He has scored five and assisted two in the last seven games in all competitions but has not scored or assisted a goal in the last 170 minutes. He will clearly be hungry in the attack on Monday and should be able to put his name on the score sheet or in the list of assists easily. While Diego Costa has eaten up the newsprint this week and mostly throughout the season, Chelsea can bank on their best player (statistically) to deliver on Monday.
Middlesbrough have been so poor in front of the goal this season that one would assume that their best player would be a defender and statistically Calum Chambers and George Friend have indeed been better ratings-wise. But now they need goals to be scored and for that they only have one player – Negredo. The Spaniard has scored 9 and assisted 4 this season in 2690 minutes, amounting to a goal scored or assisted every 206 minutes. He has scored three in the last seven games but has not assisted any for more than two months. Boro would be hoping that he is able to improve his scoring and assisting rate in the last three matches of the season, especially at Stamford Bridge where they have not scored a goal since 2001.
Chelsea could be missing David Luiz and N’Golo Kante as they are doubtful due to injuries. But Thibaut Courtois has trained despite an ankle injury and should be available to play on Monday. Otherwise Antonio Conte has his entire squad available for selection.
Middlesbrough, on the other hand, will not be able to call upon Grant Leadbitter, Victor Valdes, or Daniel Ayala and Steve Agnew might not pick Gaston Ramirez, who was left out for the City game as well despite being available for selection. Agnew might thus stick with the starting lineup that took the field against Manchester City.
Middlesbrough will be desperate for a win but Chelsea simply have too much firepower to be stopped at home. Boro simply lack personnel capable of scoring the two or three goals that could at least be required to overcome the Blues at the Bridge. This should be an easy win for Chelsea and a step closer to the title.