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Boro set for relegation as Chelsea look to march on

Conte's men can close in on Premier League title

Gary Cahill's Chelsea are number one in the Premier League this season
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Premier League
Sky Sports 1, 8pm Monday

Middlesbrough must must avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge to stand any chance of Premier League survival but their slim hopes of staying up are likely to end as Chelsea relentlessly close in on the title.

Realistically it is all over for Boro, who are seven points behind 17th-placed Swansea with three matches remaining, and a draw would only postpone the inevitable so Steve Agnew's strugglers need to win to at least make a great escape remotely possible.

Unfortunately for Boro, Chelsea are fully focused as they aim to move seven points clear at the summit and the Blues should land maximum points in what could be an entertaining contest.

Boro should be kicking themselves for sticking with Aitor Karanka for so long. The negative Spaniard seemed to drain all the life out of the squad but Agnew has got them playing on the front foot which may enable them to at least score at the Bridge.

The Teessiders performed with credit in last week's 2-2 draw with Manchester City when they managed a more than respectable six efforts on target, while Boro also had more shots on target in their unfortunate 2-1 reverse to Arsenal.

Boro also had 64 per cent possession in their 3-1 loss to Manchester United in March and the service Alvaro Negredo craved earlier in the campaign has now arrived, unfortunately almost too late to save them from the drop.

However, in becoming more attacking, Agnew's men are increasingly vulnerable defensively and they have conceded eight goals in their last two away trips to Bournemouth and Hull.

Gaston Ramirez's red card after 20 minutes did not help matters at Bournemouth but Boro were already two down at that stage, while Chelsea have won 15 of their last 16 home matches.

The Premier League champions-elect were outstanding at Everton last week, winning 3-0 thanks to second-half goals from Pedro, Gary Cahill and substitute Willian.

Diego Costa and Eden Hazard are the two main obvious home threats and it's odds-on that Antonio Conte's first season at the helm will result in Chelsea completing a domestic double.

However, finding ways to profit from a Chelsea win when the match prices are predictably short is tough.

Defensively there have been a few issues in recent weeks as opposition teams have begun to find holes in Conte's 3-4-3 shape, which bamboozled sides when it was introduced in September.

N'Golo Kante's potential absence is another reason not to be overly confident of a Chelsea clean sheet and the Blues have conceded in seven of their last eight Premier League triumphs.

Six of those victories were by 2-1 or 3-1 scorelines and splitting stakes on those outcomes may provide a winning bet.

Recommendations
Chelsea to win 2-1
0.5pt 11-1 bet365
Chelsea to win 3-1
0.5pt 12-1 bet365

Bet on this game at Soccerbase.com


Team news

Chelsea
Antonio Conte said that defender David Luiz and midfielder N'Golo Kante need to be assessed before the match.

Middlesbrough
Gaston Ramirez, Victor Valdes and Daniel Ayala are likely to remain sidelined. Grant Leadbitter and Adlene Guedioura have returned to training.

Key stat
Chelsea have scored in 34 of their last 35 home matches. 

Boro should be kicking themselves for sticking with Aitor Karanka for so long
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