Prediction time: Paul Merson predicts Chelsea vs Middlesbrough

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PAUL MERSON reckons Antonio Conte may soon need to give his wing-backs a rest.

Chelsea went into the international break sitting second in the Premier League table, only one point adrift of leaders Liverpool.

The Blues were simply unstoppable last time out, claiming a 5-0 win over Everton at Stamford Bridge

And they return to action at Middlesbrough, who themselves are unbeaten in their last three top-flight matches, on Sunday with Conte likely to deploy three at the back as he has done for much of the season so far.

But while the new-look system has undoubtedly proved effective, Merson isn’t sure how much longer the Italian can continue to rely on the hard work of his wing-backs.

Tipping Chelsea to win 2-0 at the Riverside, he told Sky Sports: “Boro have turned the corner.

“To pick up five points from their last three games – away at Arsenal where they should have won, home to Bournemouth who were on form, and to then get a draw at City, who had just beaten Barcelona.

“This will be very, very difficult for them, and I think they’re going to set up, as they did against Arsenal and City, to make it very difficult for Chelsea to break them down.

“I’ve played at Boro, it’s harder to sit back at home than it is away, because the fans will want you to attack, but if they open this game up it will get messy.

“The three at the back is working for Chelsea, and I think the wing-backs have done great. But playing wing-back is the graveyard shift, it’s a hard job. You’re up and down, up and down all day, you have to be the full-back and the winger at the same time.

“I’d be shocked if Conte can get his wing-backs doing that week in, week out, and when they start getting tired, you start playing five at the back and getting overrun in midfield. If they can rotate their wing-backs, they can do anything.

“They’ve been outstanding since the Arsenal defeat, they have ripped teams apart. They made Everton look like a League Two team.”

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