PL Sunday preview: Chelsea shoot for the summit in visit to Boro

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Chelsea have been the Premier League’s in-form side over since the start of October, when Antonio Conte switched to a three-man backline, a period which has seen the Blues (25 points) win five straight league games (by a combined score of 16-0) and pull to within two points of joint-leaders Liverpool and Manchester City.

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On Sunday’s trip to the Riverside Stadium, where Conte’s men will face a 15th-place Middlesbrough side with just one win in their last nine league games, a sixth straight league victory would see Chelsea leapfrog the Reds and Citizens, and claim the PL summit all their own with a dozen games in the books.

While defensive solidity has been the key to Chelsea’s resurrection following their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal on Sept. 24, it’s the goalscoring prowess of Eden Hazard (five goals in five games) and Diego Costa (four goals in five games), revitalized under Conte’s tutelage, which has quickly transformed the West Londoners into an irresistible force — quotes from the AP:

“The news is that I have all of the players available. They are in good form. Costa had a bit of an injury after the Everton game, he started to train with us on Wednesday and his physical condition is good. We still have tomorrow to look at the situation tactically but at the moment he can play. Eden also recovered very well.”

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While Boro have undoubtedly struggled in recent weeks, it was their final performance before the international break, a 1-1 draw away to Man City, that will fill Aitor Karanka‘s side with confidence as they encounter yet another title hopeful. The last time Boro faced Chelsea in PL action, the date was Jan. 28, 2009. The last time Boro beat Chelsea in PL competition, the date was Aug. 23, 2006 (five straight losses).

INJURIES: Boro — OUT: Daniel Ayala (ankle) | Chelsea — OUT: Kurt Zouma (fitness); RETURNING: Eden Hazard (calf), Diego Costa (groin)