Chelsea v Middlesbrough

This week the Daily Mirror published what it said were Jose Mourinho’s meticulous preparations for the Chelsea v Newcastle match. It’s a shame we won’t get to see Mourinho’s scouting report and in-depth notes for today’s match. I’d hazard a guess that they’re even more interesting and complex for the reason that Middlesbrough are a team so inconsistent that their manager, Steve McClaren, has pulled his hair out in frustration (it’s certainly thinner this season, that’s for sure). His team has beaten both Arsenal and Manchester United during the current Premiership campaign, but also lost to Everton and, unbelievably, Sunderland. Hair-pulling form indeed.

Boro’s record at the Bridge is poor to say the least; the last time they recorded a victory on our hallowed turf was over 30 years ago, March 1975 to be precise. They’ve subsequently drawn six and lost eight. We ‘doubled’ them 1-0 away and 2-0 at home in last season’s Premiership. Such a record suggests anything less than 3 points today would be a major disappointment.

The squad has been boosted by the return from injury of Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba. Robben has finally overcome his back-related hamstring problems, while Drogba has recovered from a minor knee injury picked up whilst on international duty with the Ivory Coast. He has missed the last 3 games. The bad news is that Hernan Crespo is out after picking up a rib injury during last weekend’s win over Portsmouth. Carlton Cole is therefore likely to play some part.

Chelsea old boy Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink could line up for Boro. I’m sure he’ll receive a warm welcome despite everything that’s gone on recently.

Prediction: Our recent return to the ruthless form we’ve come to expect, and Boro’s awful record at the Bridge suggests a stroll in the park. It’s unlikely to be quite so easy, but it’s difficult to see us losing. 3-1.

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Chelsea 1 – 0 Middlesbrough · Update

John Terry’s first Premiership goal of the season, on his 250th club appearance finally got the better of a resolute Middlesbrough. His powerful header from Damien Duff’s corner finally secured the points in the 63rd minute (Boro’s Fabio Rochemback tried to clear off his goal line for the second time in the match, but failed on this occasion and helped the ball over the line). Up until that point, it was looking like being one of those frustrating afternoons.

See Terry’s goal here (downloadable zip file).

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; Come On Boro; Sunday Times; Independent on Sunday; The Observer; Sunday Telegraph; The Guardian; The Independent; The Times; Daily Telegraph.

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