Chelsea vs Middlesbrough

Stamford Bridge forms the backdrop for a crunch League Cup semi-final second-leg showdown between Chelsea and Middlesbrough, with the hosts trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Chelsea’s bid to become only the third side to reach ten League Cup finals was off to a dismal semi-final start, as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat in the first leg on Teesside, casting doubt on their bid to reach the showpiece event for the first time since 2021/22. Mauricio Pochettino’s team delivered a perfect response to the first-leg upset with a narrow 1-0 home win against West London rivals Fulham in the Premier League last week, extending their formidable home form to eight unbeaten matches (W6, D2 – 90mins only). That should offer the ‘Blues’ a morale booster ahead of the return fixture as they look to progress into the final for the third time in a fifth instance to see them fail to win the first semi-final leg.

On the other hand, Middlesbrough’s unexpected success a fortnight ago forms part of an ongoing three-match undefeated streak in all competitions (W2, D1), with ex-Manchester United captain Michael Carrick bidding to lead ‘Boro’ to only their second major silverware in the club’s history. In search of good omens, Middlesbrough’s only top-tier domestic title came in the League Cup as they ascended the throne in 2003/04 after overcoming Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ in the semi-finals. Replicating that result hinges on the visitors’ ability to uphold their promising-looking patch on hostile turf. Carrick’s lads have racked up four wins on their last five domestic travels (L1), all of which saw them score 2+ goals. Though this is their first visit to Stamford Bridge since 2017, it’s worth noting they’ve lost their last six ‘to nil.’

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