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Boro v Chelsea: EFL Cup SF 1st-Leg

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Clive Hurren
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Boro v Chelsea - EFL Cup semi-final, first leg - Tuesday 9 January 20:00

It’s my fortune (some might say misfortune?) to get to write openers on 3 of the teams I most hate in all the world - Leeds, Chelsea and next Sunland. It means I can give my vitriol and donkeys‘ years‘ worth of grudges free rein!

It’s obvious why the Dirties and the Mackems feature so low down on my Christmas card list. So why Chelsea ? Need you ask? Let’s start with the Abramovich era! Boo, hiss! My memory says they started the rot in terms of Premiership finance going through the roof and spending becoming obscene. Chelsea suddenly inherited vast wealth under Putin’s mate, and used it - wisely, you might think - to win a hatful of trophies. But they also bought hundreds of players, and loaned several of them out around the EFL, probably preventing many of them from ever really making it and preventing several Prem club rivals from developing their squads. Even Boro benefited from that policy -  with players such as Kenneth Omeruo, Patrick Bamford and Tomos Kalas joining us. But even now, under the new owners, they’ve manipulated the fair-play regulations to their advantage by offering ridiculously long contracts to their squad, which of course has incurred the wrath of UEFA and a subsequent rule change.

And Heaven knows, we owe them one, after three Wembley final defeats at their hands, not to mention two more recent home Cup defeats, including a FA Cup quarter final in 2022. I’ve never forgiven Chelsea for kicking off before Ben Roberts was ready in the 1997 FA Cup Final and no-one has ever yet explained to me why Gianluca Festa’s equaliser in that game was disallowed. Bear a grudge, me? You bet!

And then there’s the fans. King’s Road, the Jet Set, Sloane Rangers, Chelsea Tractors. They seem to have many arrogant fans who look down on the likes of us, as if from their exclusive mansions in Lahndon, which, as we all know, is the centre of the world. As soon as the draw was made, one Chelski fan trumpeted on Twitter that they’re going to hammer Liverpool in the final! I reminded him they have to beat the Boro first! Let’s hope some of that cocky complacency is shared by Chelsea’s dressing room!

If there is a plus side with this hateful shower, at least they prevented the Geordies from winning a cup this season, maintaining the latter’s abysmal record of having won nowt since 1969. Have you ever seen a Geordie lift a cup? No? Thought not. Trophy Virgins. On the other hand, Chelsea are anything but trophy virgins, having hoovered up 5 Premier League titles since 2005, 7 FA Cups since and including beating us in 1997, 4 League Cups since 1998, 2 Champions League trophies since 2012, 2 Europa League cups since 2013 and the World Club Championship in 2021. That’s some serious pedigree.

In recent times, they’ve enjoyed a series of great and not so great managers - in no particular order, Vialli, Gullit, Zola, Scolari, The Special One, Benitez, Ranieri, Hiddink, Ancelotti, Conte, Sarri, Lampard, Tuchel, Potter, Pochettino. It’s an imposing list which reflects just what a big club Chelsea are. But it also reflects just how much the owners have chopped and changed over recent years in the hope of maintaining the winning formula. But sometimes, as is often the case these days, their expectations of the coach have been ridiculously high. What club in its right mind would sack a coach as good as Tuchel after winning the Champions’ League?

This season, how’s it going? Well, decidedly average and decidedly inconsistent. After 20 games, they’re in 10th position and have 28 points, having won 8 and lost 8. They’ve scored 34 goals and conceded 31. For them, this is decidedly well below expectations, especially with Pochettino at the helm.  How are the mighty fallen!

I bet we could all name major talents in Chelsea squads from a few years back. Think Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Cech, Hazard, Azpilicueta, Cole, Kante, Willian, Costa, to name but a few. Now, it’s a surprise that only 1 of their current players features in the Guardian’s top 100 footballers of 2023, Enzo at number 82.  Usually, Chelsea have several more than this. Six of the players they released feature higher in the list -, Mo Salah, Kevin de Bruyne (those 2 in the top 10), Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku. Olivier Giroud. Alvaro Morata, while Antonio Rüdiger is below Enzo. Which managers they served under and who were responsible for getting shot of this array of talent, I haven’t a clue: it’s difficult keeping up with the Chelsea managers’ revolving door! But some serious errors of judgement were made.

The 100 best male footballers in the world 2023

One of their major problems this year is that they’ve had to try to integrate a whole battalion of new players. Under new owner, American Todd Boehly, they dispensed an absolute fortune, spending $1bn of transfer money in record‑breaking fashion. This was very much the scattergun approach. ‘Oooh, he looks good, let’s buy him.’ There was no apparent coherent philosophy. There are so many new players that some of them probably don’t yet know each other’s names! And it’s resulted in far too many changes of personnel game by game. Does Pochettino even know his best XI? How many of the current squad are household names? Sterling? Thiago Silva? Reece James? The rising star Cole Palmer? I liken them to Brentford these days, as there are so many faces and names I just don’t recognise.

This article paints an interesting picture of Boehly’s chaotic leadership style:

Todd Boehly, Chelsea’s self-styled revolutionary, is facing failure

It’s generally a young side, the veteran Thiago apart. Cole Palmer, top scorer with 8 league goals, looks to be an absolute star with terrific close control and great passing ability. It was a surprise that Man City let him go to a potential rival - perhaps Pep saw which way the wind was blowing at Chelsea and reckoned they wouldn’t be too much to worry about? Connor Gallacher, returned from his umpteen loans, looks positive in midfield and to be playing the best football of his career. Raheem Sterling is always a threat. Watch out, too, for Noni Madueke on the right side. Seven goal Nicolas Jackson looks likely to miss both legs as he’s off to the Afcon with Senegal; no doubt Seny will be able to have a joke at his expense when we dump them out of the cup! They play some really nice football, but have been terribly inconsistent. So, they’re just an average Premiership side these days and, though they’ve improved recently, look destined for a mid-table finish.

Are they vulnerable at the back? Luton put them under real pressure, getting in 36 crosses. So let’s give them a game. Let’s get at them and put them under sustained duress. I would play Latte Lath from the start - although Thiago’s positional play is still superb I reckon Manu will do him for pace, as the Brazilian maestro’s legs have gone, in my view. I would also continue with the Engel/ Bangura axis down the left, as I thought that worked really well against Villa. I’d be tempted to start with Howson and Barlaser, leaving a recovering Hackney to come on later if necessary.

Let’s not kid ourselves. These are two very difficult games. We know we’ll need to be at our best, but if we play as well as we did against Villa, then we have a chance, especially if we can gain an advantage in the home leg. I think we can beat them. Let’s summon up the spirit of 1988 and the two-legged play-off final. Tuesday is my birthday; the best birthday present I could wish for would be a home win, preferably by 2 goals! Come on Boro, we can do this! Let’s give them a serious dose of the blues!

What  are your predictions, friends?

This topic was modified 4 months ago 2 times by Clive Hurren

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Thanks for the intro Clive. Chelsea certainly have a great pedigree and will be a challenge for us, but much like ourselves have been very inconsistent. On Saturday it took them over an hour to breakdown Preston before wining 4-0. I think this might be like the Man City semi in the seventies. We take a narrow win and then we all know what happened. an interesting referee appointment tomorrow Sam Barrott who is only 30 and has only been on the League list for 4 seasons and refereed his first Premier League game this season. He had the Spurs cup tie on Friday. He is obviously an official on the rise.


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A terrific opener, Clive.

You were absolutely the right man for this game as the tone of your piece reflects quite brilliantly what the vast majority of Boro fans will be feeling about the match.

And well done for tempering the deserved vitriol with your usual good humour. I laughed out loud at the reference to Ben Roberts in the '97 Final. The poor lad had scarcely had time to suck on his water bottle before the game was lost.

That carries an important lesson. We do need to get at them, but exmil is right. We must not find ourselves behind early in the game, leaving ourselves exposed to counter-attacks with the game being effectively lost before the second leg is played. We have to go down to what I still call The Smoke  with a fighting chance.

So thanks Clive for a really lively, well-written and entertaining read.

And Happy Birthday for tomorrow. I hope the lads can give you the best possible present

 

 

 


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Great stuff Clive 

happy birthday and a win for Boro on Tuesday!

No I haven’t had a drink !

OFB


   
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The EFL have confirmed that VAR will not be in operation for the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

Liverpool take on Fulham at Anfoeld on Wednesday evening, with Middlesbrough hosting Chelsea at the Riverside the night before.

 

Both games are the first legs and will be shown live on Sky Sports. And although three teams from the Premiership are involved in the final four, there will be no VAR in the competition’s semi-finals as a result of Middlesbrough’s involvement. The Championship side do not have VAR equipment installed at the Riverside, so in the interests of fairness and consistency, the matches will remain a VAR-free zone.

 

However, should Liverpool progress to the final, then VAR, as it has been in recent years, will be in operation at Wembley.

 

“Given the system is not installed at one of the participating semi-finalist Clubs and to maintain fairness and consistency, VAR technology will not be used in the Carabao Cup semi-final stage this season,” the EFL confirmed on their website.


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Thanks for a well written opener Clive and Happy Birthday for tomorrow, I will be at the Riverside and according to yesterday morning there are 907 tickets left. I am hoping that for a display like I witnessed on Saturday, and we are still in the tie going down to the “smoke”. Who knows before the second leg we may have another body (or two) to choose from, no matter the outcome, I am proud that they have reached the semifinal amongst three Premiership sides, I would love to go to Wembley with my Army son, who is a devout Liverpool fan. By the way I still believe we can make the playoffs UTB.

Come on BORO.


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Hayden Coulson has joined Blackpool on loan for the rest of the season.

Come on BORO.


   
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Powmill-Naemore
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Super opening Clive. They are at or near the top of my most disliked other team as well. I recall only being able to get hold of a ticket in the Chelsea side of Wembley for the ZDS final. I was in line with Bernie Slaven when it looked certain he would score, (I still think it is going to be a goal to this day whenever I see the replay). How I managed to contain myself I'll never know. A most unpleasant experience though, sitting amongst them. I was also at the second leg of the playoff game at Stamford Bridge when the Chelsea hospitality committee wanted to come over and congratulate us on getting promoted at the end of the game. Nasty people.

Regardless of what many of us Middlesbrough folk may feel towards Chelsea and its support, we are still the underdogs for this tie, which favours the Blues for them having the second leg at home. How can Boro have been drawn away in every round bar the last one.... conspiracy theorists can have a field day debating that one. To still be in the tie after the first leg will be a moral victory for us and will heap pressure on them for the second leg. If we play with the same discipline as on Saturday, there is every reason for us to believe we will prove a match for them. I for one will be keeping the faith that this is one game we will not lose, at the same time I am full of hope we can actually win the match although I remain devoid of any charity towards our Premiership opponents or their arrogant following. 

CoB, we can do this.

 

P.S. Many happy returns for tomorrow Clive. Let's all hope we have something to celebrate!

This post was modified 3 months ago 2 times by Powmill-Naemore

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Nice one Clive, I'm with you all the way with your sentiments and well held grudges. I hate the fact that they held the record for the fastest ever goal scored in an FA Cup Final. Against us. Now there's a new record holder and it's not Chelsea but scored against them. A small victory but one I enjoy every now and then. I would love Boro to beat them so much so I'll have to leave the back of the couch and hide in one of the farmer's barns.

Powmill has said all I would say and I agree with him too. Just don't lose Boro. Oh, and isn't the next game after this one at that bastion of London hospitality The Den? Along with Newcastle, Leicester, Leeds and Chelsea there's another least favourite place for an afternoon's entertainment.

Best wishes everyone,

UTB,

John

 


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Well done, Clive. Very enjoyable opener to read.  And I think Festa's goal was, indeed, a goal. Just before HT, and after Chelsea had the better of the first half, if that goal had been allowed, Boro would have gone into the changing rooms full of hope and Chelsea would have felt as if they had been stabbed.

I agree it is important Boro plays well tomorrow.  If the team plays with the commitment we saw against Villa on Saturday then we have a chance.  Villa is a much better team at present than Chelsea, as the league positions demonstrate: one team 2nd in the table and the other right slap-bang in the middle. 

It would be great for the club to get to another major cup final. And if you are in a final it doesn't matter who you play, you have a shot. But a good performance at home and the club finds itself playing at Stamford Bridge.  Let's dream that, in the forthcoming contest, the outcome for Chelsea will be the same as it was for Harald Hardrada and Tostog Godwinson


   
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My brain knows how to spell "Tostig" but my fingers are not so sure....


   
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Clive Hurren
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@forever-dormo 

Good 1066 referencing there, Dormo! 

And thank you all for your kind words. I am humbled. I don’t think Boro will be tomorrow. 


   
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Only about 225 tickets left for tomorrow night UTB.

Come on BORO.


Martin Bellamy
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Another superb starter.

I was at the Zenith Data Systems final, courtesy of tickets acquired somehow by a southern based work colleague. Unfortunately my wife and I had to sit with the Chelsea fans which didn’t make for a pleasant experience. 
I was in the pub just outside Wigan to watch Ben Robert’s pick the ball out of the net - and subjected to much good natured abuse from a cabal of Latics fans! 

Fingers crossed for a better result tomorrow. 


   
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Thanks Clive for a very enjoyable and personal preview for the biggest game in many a year for Boro - I feel your pain and glad you haven't forgotten and let it lie. Though glad you reminded me of that triumph in the playoffs back in 88 - was it really 36 years ago? I was barely in my twenties and seem to have a memory of listening to it while decorating - I appear to have never stopped decorating since maybe I'll open a pot of Dulux for luck tomorrow and inhale the fumes to feel the full positive high.

At least I've managed to excuse myself from taking my son to Handball training tomorrow evening as who knows when the next semi will arrive. It's going to be tough but at least Chelsea are a team in transition at the moment and not as well organised as Villa - pity Rogers, McGree and the new lad Azaz aren't available as I'd fancy those three to give their defence problems. With Greenwood also missing then will we see Hackney in one of his advanced midfield roles or will Bangura be utilised in a more forward role or is Crooks the man to muscle in on the party? 

Important not to concede early I think and keep it tight and give the Chelsea defence more problems than Villa had as I think their young team will feel the pressure as they've not much chance of winning anything else this season. It'll be nice to head south with a lead if possible - could they? I hope so!


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Posted by: @martin-bellamy

Another superb starter.

I was at the Zenith Data Systems final, courtesy of tickets acquired somehow by a southern based work colleague. Unfortunately my wife and I had to sit with the Chelsea fans which didn’t make for a pleasant experience. 
I was in the pub just outside Wigan to watch Ben Robert’s pick the ball out of the net - and subjected to much good natured abuse from a cabal of Latics fans! 

Fingers crossed for a better result tomorrow. 

I was at that game and afterwards the  so called Chelsea fans attacked our coach, they were on the roof,trying to brake the top window, if it wasn't for our driver who started of slowly  then  accelerated quickly,god knows what might have happened.

 


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I see we avoided an away tie at Chelsea in the FA Cup 😂😂😂.

Come on BORO.


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Did not know this about Matt Crooks

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/67911249

 


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@malcolm 

Me neither and very nice article that leaves a good impression of Matt Crooks the man - sounds like a top bloke!


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@exmil 

And I was just pondering how I would write another Chelsea preview in two weeks - imagine writing another one a few days later 🤔 


   
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jarkko
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@Clive Many thanks for a good and emotial starter. Yes, Chelsea is not one of anyone's favourite teams. But with a little bit of luck, you never know what can happen.

I know that Chelsea are stuttering through their Premier League season and are 10th in the table but they head for the Riverside on the back of a three-match winning run and thumped Boro's rivals Preston in the FA Cup last time out.

So we need to be at our best and as I said have some luck in scoring a goal or two. Pity we have McGree and Rogers missing as they could have made a difference.  I am hoping Crooks will be fit to play as he was on the bench on Saturday.

Up the Boro!

This post was modified 3 months ago by jarkko

 gt
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Chelsea are a different opposition than Villa, they are dangerous because of the speed they have, were as Villa were more pragmatic , 

Some how we will have to smother them , stopping them from getting confident,  

We should when we break them up, we should use the speed of Latte and Jones on the counter, and knock it through early.

I just pray Fry doesn't have one of his nightmares again, COB


   
Liked by 4 people: K P in Spain, Malcolm, jarkko and Clive Hurren
 
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Pedro de Espana
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Thank you Clive for another "top class" delivery into the box.

Let us hope that we can replicate last Saturdays performance tonight, with MC choosing to go with a very similar formation. Frustrate Chelsea, keep it tight and hopefully stop them from creating many chances and scoring. If we can do that, we will probably get a couple of chances of our own, possibly from break outs utilising the speed of Jones and LL, (I think he will start with Josh on the bench).

It looks as though it will be a bumper crowd, going by exmil's posts, and probably a decent crowd from Chelsea. If we can sneak a goal and or get a draw, I will be more than happy. Something to take into the second leg.

I won't be at the game, but will watch on TV. I hope we all are smiling at 9.50pm.


   
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Tonight’s game against Chelsea is now a sellout UTB.

Come on BORO.


   
Liked by 4 people: Selwynoz, Clive Hurren, K P in Spain and Malcolm
 
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I was there at the playoff final second leg  with my two lads the eldest played for Coatham coached by Mogga. Who got all the team tickets in the Chelsea main stand.

Bernie nearly scored and we had to run out of the stand to the Boro standing area with Chelsea fans behind us ….

Standing under the floodlights which had been scaled by Boro fans eager to get rid of the excess beer they had drunk as we stood under golden fountains but were still happy.

Then Chelsea fans charged down the pitch towards us at the end of the game …..

 

OFB


   
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@pedro 

Sold out crowd 


   
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Happy birthday Clive and thank you for an excellent opener; I knew nothing about the current Chelsea side before reading your opener but do now!

I am not convinced that we can come out on top over two legs but hope that we can again give a good account of ourselves and perhaps, just perhaps sneak a win at home. Cob 😎


   
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@k-p-in-spain 

Im just pleased that most of our players appear to have two legs after so many injuries !

 

OFB


   
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Fingers crossed for this evening, fellow Diaborians.


   
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