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Chelsea v Boro: EFL...
 

Chelsea v Boro: EFL Cup SF 2nd-leg

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Suddenly Tuesday's game feels more massive than it initially felt when the draw was made - the prospect of an injury-ravaged squad facing the overwhelming odds of Premier League power was expected to conclude in the pragmatic realism of defeat that hopefully wasn't too bruising. However, as things stand it's probably a tie that Boro will on balance now be disappointed to lose.
 
Back in August, Carabao Cup glory wasn't really top of the wish-list of most Boro followers and it was more of an opportunity to give some of those summer projects a chance to get match fit. The Teesside faithful have been quite happy seeing their team quietly sneak along under the radar on their low-profile road trip along the forgotten shadowy back-streets of Huddersfield, Bolton, Bradford, Exeter and Port Vale. That was until they were suddenly thrust into the spotlight of a semi-final against the brash billionaires of Chelsea.
 
So our small town in Europe (I think it's still technically in Europe) has once again been noticed by the national media with seldom noticed column-millimetres having reverted back to being measured in inches. Suddenly every neutral-come-signed-up-Chelsea-hater are now rooting for the team in red (unless we opt for white to avoid some as yet undefined colour clash) to finish the job so they can go full Schadenfreude at the Blues expense.
 
Having scraped into the semi's past that other North-East team, the Blues arrived on Teesside with aspirations to land a piece of silverware to cement their latest reboot following Todd Boehly's £4.25bn takeover and the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino as head coach. The fact that Michael Carrick's depleted team pulled off a famous victory at the Riverside means the drive down to West London for the second leg will probably involve trying to resist honking the horn and inwardly humming "Que Sera Sera" with unexpected cheerful fatalism. 
 
In terms of financial power, it really is a David versus Goliath battle (spoiler alert: it ended badly for the big guy) and on a normal day under normal circumstance then we would rarely expect to sling our opponents out of the competition. Thankfully, it's the cup and even with two legs, the underdog can still occasionally end up on top. 
 
Chelsea will no doubt back themselves on their own patch with the support of all but 4,309 of the 40,000 crowd - though those from Teesside will surely make enough noise to encourage the Boro players to run those extra 1,609 metres (imperial conversions are available online). The players will certainly need that backing as you have to go back almost 50 years to 1975 in order order to find the last time Middlesbrough won at Stamford Bridge. Thankfully, that win at the Riverside means only a draw is required, which has been achieved six times in West London since then.
 
Perhaps not a large intimidating venue by proper big club standards these days but the philistines of Chelsea already have a £2.2bn plan to expand their stadium from a capacity of 42,000 to 55,000. Exactly how that investment quite adds up is hard to fathom as I calculate it's costing around £170,000 per extra seat - so simply increased capacity can't be the driving factor of this project.
 
Any creative accountants out there may want to enlighten us how that pays back over any meaningful time-frame - though maybe it's not supposed to and is more about gaming the spending limits or even down to just plain stadium-envy of their London neighbours Arsenal and Spurs or even West Ham who all enjoy over 60,000 capacity. 
 
Unfortunately for the locals, it's been reported that the expansion plans involve demolishing a doctor's surgery that serves 6,500 people plus a residence that houses 100 retired military veterans - which is probably not a good look for a club affiliated with the Chelsea pensioners. Still, they wouldn't have been able to see the pitch from their windows anyway and at least they've been promised a huge cash injection to invest in new properties to "secure the best possible outcome for residents” - perhaps in the same sense that the best possible outcome when falling off a ladder is breaking your leg instead of your neck. 
 
With the club seemingly now awash with cash (no money laundering pun intended), it's hard to believe it was 40 years ago when a run-down Chelsea with a crumbling Stamford Bridge was sold for just one pound sterling. The buyer I'm sure you recall was the controversial Ken 'I was brought up on a council estate' Bates, who eventually sold it to Roman 'I was raised in the Komi Republic' Abramovich for £140m - I should point out that amazingly the 'Komi Republic' is the actual name of the region he was brought up.
 
Though Cuddly Ken claims to have personally only pocketed a modest £17m from the sale and now at the age of 92 lives on a different estate altogether in Monaco - hmm, maybe that's just raised the bar for "best possible outcome" for those other Chelsea pensioners!
 
Interestingly, the original Stamford Bridge was built back in 1904 without having a football club to play in it. The Mears family (who owned the club until Bates gave them a quid nearly 80 years later) had become enthralled by the game that was now very popular in the north and midlands and wanted a stadium in West London to rival the one at Crystal Palace. It was then offered to Fulham but they turned it down, so instead a new club was formed in March 1905 to play at the 100,000 capacity stadium and that is why Chelsea FC came into being. 
 
The stadium itself was designed by famous Glasgow architect, Archibald Leitch, who had already designed many stadiums including our very own Ayresome Park. A single 5,000 capacity stand was constructed on the east side with the remaining sides forming an open bowl with terraces built on mounds that used thousands of tons of material that had been excavated when building the Piccadilly Line.
 
So who knows, if the Cottagers had have said yes then there might never have been a Chelsea football club and Boro could have displayed a few more trophies in their cabinet - where's that time-traveling DeLorian when you need it as someone at Fulham needs to have had a change of mind!
 
OK, you may think it odd that the stadium is named after a town in Yorkshire where the second most famous battle of 1066 took place. Well those proof readers may be not be to blame on this one but it was actually originally called Stanford Bridge. Even that name somehow ended up as a combination of the two nearby places of Sanford and Stanbridge. Sanford derives from 'sand ford' where it was a crossing over a small creek on the King's Road and Stanbridge or 'stone bridge' that was built to cross it. Then at some point the names of the two sites merged into Stanford Bridge - at which occasion I suspect there was probably a pub and a taxi driver involved
 
However, over the years it simply became known as Stamford Bridge - possibly out of confusion or just familiarity with the similar sounding battle. Maybe it was just what the surveyors heard when asking the locals - try it at home by just pronounce Stanford with thick London accent and you'll be probably pushed to notice the difference.
 
Anyway, it's hard to believe when Boro arrive at Stamford Bridge they will be only 90 minutes away from Wembley - Fact! I've checked on Google Maps and it's a reasonable proposition if you walk to Chelsea Village and hop on the number 414 bus, get off at the Hilton Hotel (quickly enquire about cheap rooms for final day) and then walk to Green Park to take the Jubilee line to Wembley Park and walk to the stadium. Of course Boro could instead drive to Wembley Stadium in an open-top bus in just 45 minutes but I suspect that's not a good look and rather presumptuous for Championship side with a slender lead - besides being a freezing-cold January evening we don't want anymore needless injuries.
 
Anyway, I digress but I'm still contractually obliged to thoroughly research all throwaway lines at this stage of the competition. Nevertheless, Michael Carrick and his players stand on the brink of history with a reasonable chance of reaching a rare cup final. All they need to do is avoid defeat and that will surely dictate the tactics on Tuesday evening. OK, it will be tough and even with a 1-0 lead most pundits are predicting Chelsea will eventually prevail - though a few are starting to hedge their bets with even Alan Shearer declaring that he wouldn't be surprised if Boro end up in the final.
 
I suspect that kind of confidence is not universally matched on Teesside where many were fearing the worst ahead of the first leg. The lead-up stats since our last win over the Blues in August 2006 read: played 9, scored 0 (zero), conceded 21 (a lot) - which may have perhaps allowed a few doubts to enter the occasionally optimistic heads of the faithful - especially given the low correlation between Boro players and those being in possession of two functioning legs.
 
While Chelsea may be favourites, they are not a team that have found any consistency under Pochettino and the body language of many in blue at the Riverside was not one that shouted either confidence or a team that is even a fraction of the sum of its expensive parts. It appears many of the under-performing 'stars' may be carrying the burden of over-inflated transfer fees as the team often struggles even to find the gear-stick let alone the gears.
 
It's a team that currently lacks an identity and still relies on sporadic individual brilliance to suddenly find a way past the opposition - perhaps not too dissimilar to Ten Hag's Manchester United who sit seventh, one point above them in the table as they're locked in intense rivalry for that coveted Europa Conference League play-off spot.
 
Despite Chelsea under-performing, Michael Carrick won't underestimate the challenge at Stamford Bridge as they've still won their last 3 Premier League games - albeit by single-goal margins with two of those games decided by penalties and the other a narrow 3-2 over Luton. I suspect Boro will offer more of the same and keep it tight and hope to catch the Chelsea defence on the break. 
 
Given both Luke Ayling and Dijksteel are unavailable, we may have expected to see another back three with wing-backs of Jones and Engel. However, with Jones looking like he's knacked (a technical medical term) his hamstring after that push in the back from childhood Boro-supporter Jordan Hugill, it's now hard to imagine who can play wing-back on the right. McNair was surprisingly back on the bench on Saturday but is he fully fit and with Jonny Howson missing out on Saturday because of a "niggle" it means van den Berg can't play both positions on Tuesday. So in terms of finding a wing-back do the club actually have another fit player with pace who can also defend?
 
At least free-scoring Marcus Forss is fit-again and will likely feature from the start - plus Rogers has now served his ban that saw him miss out on the first leg and is unlikely to be sold to Villa in the next 48 hours unless they have either added a nought to the end of their previous bid or someone inadvertently turned the fax machine back on. 
 
Unfortunately, the Boro head coach appears he has possibly less wriggle room with player selection than he had in the first leg so it's unlikely he'll have much on the bench that he'd fancy throwing on against Chelsea - let alone if it goes to extra time. Much may well depend on the state of Josh Coburn's groin and Latte Lath's ankle, who had his game cut short very early in the first half by that late challenge in the box. Though as things stand, Michael Carrick just about has a fit starting XI with quite a few 50-50s and he may well be forced to phone a friend to try and win the big prize on Tuesday.
 
Still, all to play for and it won't be night for the faint hearted unless Boro get a couple of early goals and Chelsea go down to 10 men. In the absence of that happening then it's going to take a lot of concentration and patience plus plenty of numbing alcohol for those who have to watch - though those in the dugout will probably be advised to abstain on the alcohol until after the game if we are to avoid any well-meaning attempts to send on more than 11 players. 
 
So, come on Boro, same again please - twenty years has been a long wait (nearly as long as reaching the end of this article) for another cup final. OK, I've stopped typing the preview - it's now out of my hands and it's up to Michael Carrick and the players to write the happy ending!
 
 
Chelsea v Boro takes place at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday 23 January at 20:00 UK time.

Martin Bellamy
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@werdermouth. If starter posts can be perfect, then this is the one. 
I’m in awe of this example of your writing skills - if our team play to a similar skill level, then we’ll cruise easily into the final. 
I suspect we’re all nervous of a Chelsea drubbing, especially if IJ is, as expected, unavailable, but who knows what the football gods have in store for us? 


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I can only echo Martin’s comments and say that your journalistic skills are amazing; that was an excellent piece to read and enjoy, thank you.

Heart says Boro but head says Chelsea and I fear if they score early then we could end up being embarrassed despite Chelsea’s inconsistent PL form.

Come on Boro, make it a night to remember and not another bad night in the smoke. 😎

This post was modified 3 months ago by K P in Spain

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Well done Werder a masterpiece !

When we were messaging each other about the previewd for the Carsbao Cup I was so pleased that you agreed to do the 2nd leg of the semi final as we have missed your excellent work.

This is a tie that Im afraid I shall be like John and watching from behind the sofa ! 

I’m sure that I will be like a lot of Boro supporters who will not dream of getting to Wembley especially after the performance on Saturday !

Mrs OFB and I reminisced on Friday and watched a dvd of the League Cup Final played 20 years ago at Cardiff on 29th February which we won of course! I had forgotten that the penalty was won so early in the game and also forgotten that we went 2 up so early also. I did remember the two footed penalty taken and the controversy afterwards which did bring about some clarification and amendments to the laws of the game. I had also forgotten the blunder by Swartzer to concede a goal but I did remember his marvellous saves.

if we can get to see another final like that in my lifetime I shall be a very lucky and happy man !

OFB


Powmill-Naemore
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What a superb opening piece Werder. Thank you.

I recall travelling to Maine Road to watch Boro defend John Hickton's goal in the League Cup semi-final second leg all those years ago - was it 1975? Boro got drubbed 4-0 that night. I am anxious that something similar might happen again, but hoping not. Like KP, my heart yearns one way, but my head fears the other.

To win through to the final would be absolutely brilliant (and how much do I want us to succeed, especially againt Chelsea), but so long as we are not embarrassed on live television and can come away from the Bridge with our heads held high, I will be happy.

This post was modified 3 months ago by Powmill-Naemore

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That was a piece for the ages by Werder. 

It's probably a bridge too far or at least a wade through a shallow, sandy ford too far but we travel in hope.

Not sure how we set up for this and who will be available. I doubt Paddy can play wing-back after this long out. Assuming Jones is out then I think we'll set up in a 4-5-1 with RVDB at right back. Possibly Coburn leading the line for the first hour with Forss coming on afterwards. 

When the season started, we bought an infeasible number of attacking midfielders then added another one in January. Now they have gone missing like tears in the rain.

Jones - knacked

McGree - posted overseas

Silvera - tagging along with McGree

Azaz - cup-tied

Greenwood - cup-tied

Crooks - partially knacked

Forss - needed elsewhere

Gilbert - abducted by aliens

Hoppe - "Injury"

 

Also

Howson - has a niggle aka old age

O'Brien - fit enough for 20 minutes?

Latte Lath - knacked

Coburn - partially knacked

 

In 1066 there was a battle at the real Stamford Bridge. Harald Godwinson had spent 6 months in London waiting for William to invade from the Isle of Wight. However, William got stuck in traffic. At which point, Harald heard that Harada had invaded up north so went on a forced march and ambushed the invaders at Stamford Bridge. While this was going on, William finally got his Oyster card charged and invaded down south. So Harold marched all the way back again but William had his eyes out and that was that.

So 1-0 after the first match but lost on penalties in the second. Let's hope history doesn't repeat.


Pedro de Espana
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@werder.   Absolutely brilliant, absolutely brilliant. As deleriad said, one for the ages. 

Impossible to say any more.  

I think this match, given the hex that is hanging over the Boro at the moment, will be one step to far. I just cannot imagine how MC is feeling, trying to coggle together a team that can do a Canute, and hold the tide at bay. 

Just give it your all on the night and hope that someone, somewhere shines a little light on little MFC. 

 

 


Martin Bellamy
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@deleriad As coincidence would have it, Mrs B and I stopped in Stamford Bridge last week, to give Ralf a walk on our way home from York. The village makes much of its history, particularly the part bound up with the Viking battle. It appears that the Norwegians opted not to wear battle armour for some reason. Let’s hope our heroes have their shinpads on for Tuesday’s game.


   
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An absolute belter, Werder. Congratulations and many thanks.

 

 

 


   
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A quick thanks to everyone for the generous comments on the preview and glad you enjoyed it - actually had to write the bulk on Friday as my weekend was looking short on free time and there ended up being quite a bit to unpack, pull together and edit this morning before heading out this afternoon. Now looking forward to the game with nervous anticipation - fingers crossed and the sofa has been position accordingly for easy access to the back...


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@deleriad 

 🤣 Very good, I think they may need to alter that tapestry if they've got any stitches left after fixing up the Boro players.


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@pedro interestingly, we all have the wrong end of the stick about King Cnut. He was a pious, Christian who wished to make a demonstration that the power of a king was lesser than that of God. So he sat the chair down and commanded the tide to go out. It did not, of course, obey him, proving his point.

 


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@deleriad 

Correct of course, but I prefer the old spelling of Canute. The revised version always reminds me of that dreadful French Connection logo


Powmill-Naemore
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Posted by: @lenmasterman

@deleriad 

Correct of course, but I prefer the old spelling of Canute. The revised version always reminds me of that dreadful French Connection logo

naughty 😉 

 


   
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Powmill-Naemore
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@lenmasterman either spelling always sets

"Can-Utility And The Coastliners" playing in my head.

   
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jarkko
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@lenmasterman Knut? Up the Boro!


   
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jarkko
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@werdermouth A very good opener for the Chelsea match. Thank you very much.

If we get beat tomorrow, we can always concentrate to league. Our number one target when the season started. Up the Boro! 


   
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@jarkko 

Just like in German where in words that start with 'Kn' the K is not silent  - e.g. Knie (knee) is pronounces k-nee with the K sounding like the one in 'kick'.


   
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Just read reports that Morgan Rogers apparently did a lap round the Riverside to applaud the supporters after the Rotherham game and was the last to leave the pitch - sounds like he's off but hopefully not until after the Chelsea game.


   
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Wonderful opener Werder, I hope the Boro team read it as motivational text and recite it individually in front of the bathroom mirror. Delivered in Shakespearean style obviously. I'm excited, nervous and perhaps becoming delirious with nerves I do not know what will happen, I couldn't even make a  guess. One more sleep to being even more a nervous wreck.

I think I need sister to calm me, mind you with the state I'll be in tomorrow it may be just a bed pan she needs to deliver.

UTB,

John

PS Please play in RED.


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@john-richardson 

2 - 3 or not 2 - 3, that is the question...


   
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Clive Hurren
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That’s a brilliant opener, werder! Simply magnificent. 

Like most of you, my heart says we get to Wembley, but my head says we’ll go out. However, I have this picture in my mind of Boro nicking an early goal, then surviving an onslaught to go through. I must have dreamed that. It’s the hope that kills you. 


   
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Posted by: @werdermouth

Just read reports that Morgan Rogers apparently did a lap round the Riverside to applaud the supporters after the Rotherham game and was the last to leave the pitch - sounds like he's off but hopefully not until after the Chelsea game.

I was at the Riverside and Rogers did go round applauding the fans, with the rest of the team !, it’s easy for someone to build something into what they want. Do we think, if we avoid defeat at Chelsea, he is going to pass up on a cup final at Wembley on 26 Feb, window will be closed!. 

Come on BORO.

 


   
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While people are concerned about Rogers transfer saga effecting his performance against Chelsea, have a thought about Chelsea forward Broja, who Pochettino is actively trying to get rid of but nobody is making a move for him, how is that going to effect his performance tomorrow 🤔.

Come on BORO.


   
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Pedro de Espana
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@exmil    by not starting him.  🤣 🤣


   
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Last time we won at Stamford bridge 

1975


   
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@paulinboro 

I know it's quite a while - I guess you haven't had time to read the preview yet 😉 


   
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Powmill-Naemore
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@werdermouth and @Paulinboro

...but the last time we played them in a fixture over two legs, with the second leg in London, we came out on top 😉


   
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@exmil 

I'd always go for a trusted first-hand source over newspaper looking for an angle any day (it was in the Birmingham Mail) - so you reckon nothing out of the ordinary from Rogers after the game and no lingering on the pitch that resembled a goodbye.

Anyway, I made the same point on Saturday (below) about him not wanting to miss out the cup final - though I wonder given the choice of, a move to a club in the top four of the PL with a lucrative contract or appearing in a cup final, what he'd choose? I bet his agent would be doing everything to persuade him the move is the best option as he won't be making much of cut from Carabao glory!

Posted by: @werdermouth

I agree with much that has been said about the Rogers proposed deal to Villa - plus it's hard to see him starting for Villa this season as it will take him a while to adjust to the PL. I guess a couple of goals at Chelsea is what he needs to seal the deal and push up what Villa are prepared to pay - but then he's going to miss out playing in the cup final so maybe he'll turn them down 😉 

 


   
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@powmillnaemore 

It must be a sign 🤔 

btw Werder Bremen had a rare 1-0 victory at Bayern Munich yesterday so the omens are looking good.


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