Antonio Conte is usually very tight-lipped regarding Chelsea injuries, and usually does not mention names when talking about “situations” that he’s monitoring. I can’t quite decide if Conte talking specifically about N’Golo Kanté and David Luiz in his pre-match press conference means that he’s not actually concerned about them, or if their injuries are bad enough that there’s really no hope of them playing on Monday.
“This week we are struggling with two situations, David and N’Golo, but there are three days before the game and I have time to make the best decisions about them. N’Golo has a little muscular problem with his thigh, not a great problem, so for this reason I must see the best way for him.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
In the former scenario, the Chelsea lineup we’ll see against Middlesbrough is likely to be the tried and true, with perhaps Cesc Fàbregas coming in once again as the third forward just as he has in recent home games against Crystal Palace and Southampton.
Courtois | Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Matić, Kanté, Moses | Hazard, Costa, Fàbregas
In the latter scenario however, if both David Luiz and Kanté are unable to go, a bit more creative tinkering will be required.
Kanté has missed just one Premier League match all season, Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Boxing Day. That day, Conte opted for a Matić-Fàbregas central midfield pairing and he’s likely to do the same this time as well, especially given Cesc’s continuing habit of making a positive impact on the attacking end of things.
Despite his ongoing knee injury (thanks, Aguero!), David Luiz has not missed a Premier League match since the switch to the 3-4-3. On Sunday, he was replaced by Nathan Aké for the final ten minutes and despite John Terry’s availability, I think Conte would opt for that solution again on Monday if needed. Conte did specifically say that JT is the backup for the central position in the back-three, so there’s also a (small) chance that the veteran Chelsea captain makes a surprise start — though with Fàbregas in midfield, the defense will have to be a bit more proactive, and that should suit Aké’s game better.
Courtois | Cahill, Aké, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Matić, Fàbregas, Moses | Hazard, Costa, Pedro
The community’s preference is firmly for Aké and Fàbregas as well, though I suppose it could be up for debate whether Aké or Cahill should play in the middle of the three-man defense.
Courtois (96%) | Cahill (95%), Aké (81%), Azpilicueta (98%) | Alonso (98%), Matić (87%), Fàbregas (91%), Moses (96%) | Hazard (98%), Costa (90%), Pedro (72%)