Football News

Middlesbrough v Chelsea predicted XIs: Team news as Tuchel hails “legend” Azpilicueta for leading in uncertain time

By Harry Edwards

Middlesbrough v Chelsea predicted XIs: Team news as Tuchel hails "legend" Azpilicueta for leading in uncertain time

Published: 16:02, 17 March 2022

Chelsea will be looking to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the fifth time in six seasons when they travel to face Middlesbrough on Saturday at 5:15pm (UK time).

The Blues have been losing finalists in each of the past two seasons, beaten by Leicester in 2020/21 and Arsenal in 2019/20, but they are currently on their best run in the FA Cup since 2006-2012 when they reached, and won, four finals in six year. However, they won’t have it easy in the quarter-finals with Middlesbrough riding high off the back of two big upsets in the FA Cup, knocking out Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the last two rounds.

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Middlesbrough team news vs Chelsea:

  • Ins: None
  • Outs: Riley McGree
  • Doubts: Andraz Sporar, James Lea Siliki

Middlesbrough beat Birmingham City 2-0 in the Championship on Tuesday to move within a point of the play-off places, and there was another big boost in the starting XI. Anfernee Dijksteel made his return to the team after missing two matches through injury, replacing Lee Peltier at centre-back.

However, Riley McGree, Andraz Sporar and James Lea Siliki all missed out, though there is hope that the latter pair will be in contention for the weekend’s game. McGree won’t be back until after the international break.

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Predicted Middlesbrough XI vs Chelsea:

  • Lumley; Dijksteel, McNair, Fry; Jones, Crooks, Tavernier, Howson, Taylor; Watmore, Coburn. (3-5-2)

Chelsea team news vs Middlesbrough: Tuchel praises Blues ‘legend’ Cesar Azpilicueta

  • Ins: None
  • Outs: Ben Chilwell
  • Doubts: Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Andreas Christensen

Andreas Christensen had to come off in the first half of Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday and the club will have to wait to find out whether he will be available for the trip to Middlesbrough.

Also doubts for the weekend are Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James who are still returning from injuries, though the latter has been included in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

Should James not be fit for the weekend, then Cesar Azpilicueta may continue at right wing-back having started there against Lille. While it may not be his strongest position, playing at wing-back did allow Azpilicueta to get forward to help his side and it was the Chelsea captain who scored the winning goal on the night to continue Tuchel’s winning run,

And after the game Tuchel hailed Azpilicueta as a Chelsea legend, exactly the sort of player the club need to get through the off-pitch uncertainties.

“He is maybe the perfect example to describe, as a person and leader,” Tuchel said of Azpilicueta.

“He is just doing what he is doing and he’s doing it in good times and bad times. He is doing it over and over again.

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“No matter if he has a personal period when he maybe suffers a bit and isn’t playing regularly, or if he has to play as a wing-back which maybe isn’t his best position, but he is there and lives on a daily basis what it takes to be Chelsea captain.

“He is a legend already at the club and this is what we need. I don’t think we need extra, extra, extra at the moment. We just need a reliable attitude, reliable teamwork, and a reliable spirit.

“This is what we have and Azpi is a huge part as a captain.”

However, Chelsea may not have Azpilicueta for much longer. The Spaniard’s contract is up in the summer and he is yet to agree to a new deal, edging closer to the exit and a possible move to Barcelona. There is a reported 12-month extension in his contract, but it remains to be seen whether Chelsea will be allowed to trigger it, and also whether they would — or allow Azpilicueta to go on his own terms, as they did Petr Cech in 2015.

Predicted Chelsea XI vs Middlesbrough:

  • Arrizabalaga; Chalobah, Rudiger, Sarr; Azpilicueta, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Lukaku, Mount. (3-4-3)