As we've seen in several of Saturday's games, resuming play after a two-week international break can often lead to sluggish performances from previously high-flying teams. Liverpool, the Premier League's top scorers for example, managed just one shot on target in the first half against Southampton and had to settle for a 0-0 draw.
And while Manchester City managed to pull out a narrow win at Crystal Palace, there was merriment to be found elsewhere as Arsenal and Manchester United both dropped points — a draw that apparently felt like a loss to a certain Jose Mourinho — and Spurs almost managed to Spurs it up at home against relegation-threatened West Ham United. Thanks for messing up all your chances, Simone Zaza! Maybe we should've loaned a player to the Hammers in the summer rather than waiting until January.
In any case, a draw against Middlesbrough would probably feel like a loss to Chelsea as well, especially given the other results. With a win, Chelsea would move a point clear at the top of the table! Conte has talked at length ahead of the match about keeping concentration levels high and keeping the five-match winning streak alive. Chelsea have been playing tremendously well, but nothing saps momentum like an international break.
So we start again.
Date / Time: Sunday, November 20, 2016, 16:00 GMT; 11am EST; 9:30pm IST
Venue: Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough, England
Referee: Jonathan Moss — Mr. Moss's 14th Chelsea game; his previous one was our 2-1 win over Watford back in August.
Forecast: Rainy, cold, and windy. The North.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBCSN, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Star Sports (India)
Chelsea team news: Three players came back from the break with various injuries, though Costa's groin strain is the only one that's concerning. Chelsea seem confident that the Premier League's leading goalscorer will be fit to play despite being limited to light training earlier in the week. Eden Hazard got kicked a couple times as well but looks no worse for the wear, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is injured but was unlikely to be involved anyway. Kurt Zouma's back in training but will once again suit up for the U23s on Monday instead. Everyone else is healthy, ready, and willing, though Conte's unlikely to change what's been a superlative starting eleven over the past month.
Chelsea's five-match winning- and clean sheet-streak has raised spirits, hopes, and expectations in West London. At worst, Chelsea will be third after this weekend, but could be top as well. And wouldn't that be something, less than 12 months after sacking Mourinho from one point above the relegation zone?
Middlesbrough team news: Boro went two months without a win in any competition from late August to late October, but are now unbeaten in three, including away draws against Arsenal and Manchester City and a home win over AFC Bournemouth. This is probably as good a form as the newly promoted Teessiders will be in all season.
Boro are an interesting collection of big-team cast-offs (Valdes, Negredo, Barragán), journeymen (Downing, Stuani, and intriguing young talent (Adama Traoré, Ben Gibson, and the currently injured Dani Ayala), but they've failed to gel into anything too exciting. They have scored a league-worst 10 goals so far on the season, though they've only allowed 12 at the other end, which is tied for fourth best. For more on Middlesbrough, be sure to check out Rob's opposition analysis.
Previously: It's been eight years since Chelsea last played a Premier League game in Middlesbrough, but we did visit for an FA Cup match a few years ago. Oscar, Hazard, and Moses combined to score a lovely goal.