Antonio Conte’s Chelsea play hosts to Steve Agnew’s Middlesbrough side, who are desperately looking to avoid relegation.
If the Blues defeat Middlesbrough tonight, then they would need only 3 more points to reclaim the Premier League title from Leicester City. However, should Steve Agnew’s men lose tonight, it would seal their fate and guarantee their relegation to the Championship for next season.
Needless to say, it will be a hotly contested tie at Stamford Bridge and both sides will have a lot to play for, but Middlesbrough are fighting for their lives, and Antonio Conte was wary of the pressure on his visitors and said that he expected a good game tonight.
In his pre-match press conference at Cobham, he said: “With only four games to go it’s important to win, but it won’t be easy because they are struggling to avoid relegation. We must be ready to fight and find the right way to take three points.”
Going into this tie, the Italian has two major fitness concerns in his squad. He revealed that David Luiz and N’golo Kante were doubts for tonight’s game. However, he had positive news regarding Thibaut Courtois, who was fit and ready to play after training with the squad.
“This week we are struggling with two situations, David and N’Golo, but there are three days before the game and I have time to make the best decisions about them,” he said. “N’Golo has a little muscular problem with his thigh, not a great problem, so for this reason I must see the best way for him.”
Should the duo not recover in time for tonight’s clash, Conte has a number of options in defence to replace David Luiz, but N’golo Kante’s absence means that Cesc Fabregas is almost certain to start alongside Nemanja Matic in the middle of the Blues midfield.
Nathan Ake, Kurt Zouma and John Terry can all fill in for David Luiz as a part of Chelsea’s back three, but it is likely we will see Ake handed another Blues start, especially after an impressive performance against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final a few weeks earlier.