This game is a bit of a sideshow in the current Chelsea cinematic universe, though Chelsea nearly turned it into a clownshow with our silly request to have it held behind closed doors after we were prevented from selling more than the 700 away tickets that were already sold before the sanctions hit. Fortunately we got past that harebrained scheme quickly, and even managed to win a concession from the government to allow us to travel by plane rather then bus, so all’s well that ends well, right?
We do need to still win for the best ending however, and that might not be a given considering that Boro have already knocked out Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to get this far. And they’ll have not only the confidence of those results, but also the confidence of being on the “right” side of history, buoyed by divine providence against the forces of dirty, evil, indecent, entitled, unscrupulous, unethical, immoral, etc etc etc money blah blah blahbity blah.
Boro will donate gate receipts to war relief efforts in Ukraine, which is nice.
Date / Time: Saturday, March 19, 2022, 17.15 GMT; 1:15pm EDT; 10:45pm IST
Venue: Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough, England
Referee: Paul Tierney (on pitch); Darren England (VAR)
Forecast: Sunny, breezy
On TV: BBC One (UK); none (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BBC iPlayer (UK); ESPN+ (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Middlesbrough team news: As well as they’ve done in the FA Cup, Boro have just three wins from their last seven in the league, and they remain outside the promotion playoff spots, albeit just on goal difference. (They are also a point below Luton Town, whom we beat in the previous round.)
Boro have an almost fully healthy squad, with only striker Andraž Šporar and midfielder James Lea-Siliki dealing with some after-effects of non-covid illness. Šporar’s absence could be key; he’s their leading goalscorer in the league — though Boro do not have any players in double digits in goals for the season yet. They’ve tried to address that shortcoming by bringing in Aaron Connolly and Folarin Balogun on loan in January from Brighton and Arsenal, respectively. At the back, manager Chris Wilder has deployed his familiar three-back system since taking over in November from Neal Warnock.
Chelsea team news: Unlike Boro, we’re dealing with several absentees through illness or injury, including Saúl Ñíguez, Andreas Christensen, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, and Callum Hudson-Odoi. On the plus side, César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso both returned to start midweek, and have seemingly come through unscathed, so we might have some wing-backs to utilize should we choose to do so.
Despite the circumstances and all the other things going on, we have won five in a row in all competitions, and have not lost a game in regulation since the 1-0 reverse at Manchester City two months and 14 games ago. We have made the FA Cup semifinal (and final) in four of the previous five seasons.
Previously: We’ve played Boro just three times in the past ten years, including a 2-0 win at the Riverside in the 5th round of the 2012-13 FA Cup. Ramires and Victor Moses scored second-half goals under Interim management. VicMo’s goal was quite lovely work indeed, Hazard and Oscar weaving a bit of magic.