Chelsea will be too strong for Middlesbrough at the Riverside | Football

Cole Palmer has been a shining light for Chelsea this season (Picture: Reuters)

Middlesbrough will launch everything, including the kitchen sink, at Chelsea at the Riverside as they seek to gain a first-leg advantage in their Carabao Cup semi-final.

They must build a lead against the Premier League club to have any chance of reaching next month’s Wembley final but it is going to be an improbable mission as the Blues are finally finding their feet under Mauricio Pochettino’s command. 

All their victories in the League Cup this season have been at Stamford Bridge with Wimbledon, Blackburn, Brighton and Newcastle being dispatched, although it took a fraught penalty shoot-out for the Magpies to be beaten.

Chelsea also won with ease when they defeated Preston 4-0 at home in the FA Cup on Saturday so Boro are up against it if they can’t win the initial encounter.

Boro’s cause is aided by the absence of Nicolas Jackson, who is on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Senegal, while unfortunate fellow Blues striker Christopher Nkunku is struggling to shake off a fresh hip problem having already missed most of the season with the injury.

Mauricio Pochettino is on the brink of taking Chelsea to Wembley in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge

Mauricio Pochettino is on the brink of taking Chelsea to Wembley in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge (Picture: Getty Images)

And the Championship club will take confidence from their FA Cup performance at home to Premier League title candidates Aston Villa on Saturday when they were just three minutes from punching their ticket into the draw for the fourth round.

Unai Emery’s side were unable to find their way through Boro’s stout defence until a deflected shot from Matty Cash gave them a 1-0 win in the 87th minute.

Boro’s overall form this term has been somewhat underwhelming and although manager Michael Carrick is a shrewd tactician he has been unable to steer them into Championship promotion contention after a strong finish last season.

Chelsea are also stuck in mid-table limbo but they are eyeing a fourth League Cup final since 2015 and can take one step towards a jolly boys’ outing to Wembley by winning 2-0 at 15/2 with Coral, BoyleSports and bet365.

Cole Palmer has been a superb capture from Manchester City and is 15/2 to open the scoring with Paddy Power and 21/10 with the same firm and Betfair to grab a goal at any time.

• Defending champion Judd Trump is 4/1 with StarSports to win the Masters at Alexandra Palace in London at the weekend. He’s 8/11 with Unibet to beat Kyren Wilson by more than 1.5 frames in his opening match.

• Neil Robertson is 11/10 across the board to beat Barry Hawkins in their first round encounter at the Ally Pally.


MORE : Mauricio Pochettino provides Christopher Nkunku update after fresh injury problem


MORE : Ivan Toney sends message to Arsenal and Chelsea ahead of return to football following gambling ban

Chelsea FC