REVERTING TO OLD RELIABLE
Following a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September, Antonio Conte reverted back to a familiar formation from his Italy days. Since the change Chelsea have taken the league by storm.
Chelsea started the season in steady fashion, beating both West Ham and Watford 2-1 and Burnley 3-0. However, consecutive losses to Liverpool and Arsenal had many questioning their title credentials. 8 points adrift of leaders Man City after only 6 games, it seemed their title prospects were dwindling fast.
Cue a Conte tactical change. Moses was given a first league start since 2013 and Alonso his first league start for the club. The pair either side of a Kante and Matic partnership, provided an industrious midfield to link the 3 man defence and attack.
This industrious midfield have played a major role in consecutive clean sheets in all 5 games since the change. It also suits the returning Luiz, giving him licence to produce trademark winding runs and long range passes from centre back.
Whilst, with 16 goals in their last 5 games, the attack has become as formidable as any in the league. Costa is firing on all cylinders both in terms of goals scored and his work rate. Hazard has put his disappointing 2015/16 season behind him and is in scintillating form. Pedro has been directly involved in 6 goals in his last 4 games.
What is truly astounding is the strength of the bench. Players such as Terry, Fabregas, Oscar and Willian have been limited to bench roles and, at some point, Kurt Zouma will return to the picture. With no Champions League football this season, Conte has fewer games to rotate these players.
The change in tactic has resulted in a change in fortunes. Now averaging 3 points per game under the new formation and yet to concede, Chelsea sit only 1 point behind leaders Liverpool. With key games against Tottenham and Man City on the horizon, maintaining this form against Middlesbrough is of paramount importance.
The Blues visit a Middlesbrough side who have already held both Arsenal and Man City to draws this season. Although, having accumulated just 4 points from a possible 15 at home this season, their home form will need to improve if they are to stay up this season.
This game is part of our Millionaire pool this weekend, can you predict the score?