Middlesbrough v Chelsea

Middlesbrough’s manager, the increasingly inept-looking Steve McClaren, is said to be on the shortlist to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson as England manager.

Quite why is beyond me. He’s spent over £50m of his chairman, Steve Gibson’s money since taking over in 2001, finished 12th in the Premiership in 2002, 11th in 2003 and 2004, 7th in 2005, and is close to relegating Boro this season; he’s won less than 40% of his matches, signed some truly bad players and seems more concerned with not losing than actually winning.

And what has five years of McClaren and £50m bought “Middlesbore”? One League Cup, in 2004.

Quite frankly, based on what he’s achieved with Boro, McClaren shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as England. Just my opinion, of course, although I’d be interested to hear from anyone who thinks otherwise, especially Boro fans.

Anyway, that’s enough vitriol.

In team news, it’ll be interesting to see whether Jose Mourinho gives the fringe players who did so well against Everton — Carlo Cudicini, Robert Huth, Glen Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips — in midweek another opportunity.

Meanwhile Damien Duff and Paulo Ferreira definitely miss out with Achilles and thigh injuries respectively. Didier Drogba has yet to return from the African Cup of Nations.

Chelsea old boy Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who may face a disrepute charge from the Football Association because he has failed to produce evidence to back up his allegation that Roman Abramovich paid Chelsea players unauthorised bonuses, could line up for Boro.

Prediction: Despite beating both Manchester United and Arsenal at the Riverside this season, Boro currently languish in 17th place, five points above the relegation zone. Aston Villa put four past them last weekend and they shipped seven goals at Highbury last month. They’ve won just six of their twenty-four Premiership matches this season and one of their last eleven. 0-3.

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Middlesbrough 3 – 0 Chelsea · Update

Football never ceases to amaze. Credit to Boro. They’ve now beaten Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea at the Riverside this season. Unbelievable.

I’m going down the pub.

Read columnist Jonathan Dyer‘s match report here.

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

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