With all the big games taking place on Saturday, the TV fayre on Sunday and Monday offers little to get excited about. Unless of course, you happen to be a fan of Middlesbrough, Chelsea, West Brom or Burnley.
Antonio Conte takes his 2nd placed Chelsea side up to the North East to face Middlesbrough off the back of a five-game winning streak in the Premier League. The Blues are starting to look like title contenders under the wily Italian, and this will be a big test for a Boro side hovering above the relegation zone.
West Brom v Burnley has all the hallmarks of a relegation battle, but both teams are actually performing much better than that this season. The Clarets are in the lofty position of 9th after wins against Everton and Palace and that backs-to-the-wall 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. The Baggies are only two place behind in 11th after winning at champions Leicester in their last Premier League fixture.
It’s hard to look past this Chelsea team in Sunday’s afternoon game – they’ve won five league games in a row without conceding, and Middlesbrough are among the division’s most goal-shy sides. Meanwhile, in the Monday night football, Burnley look a shade overpriced to get at least a point from their visit to the Hawthorns.
West Brom v Burnley
Sean Dyche’s men are unbeaten in three league games. a 2-1 home win over Everton and a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace have propelled them up the table, and the 0-0 draw at Manchester United demonstrated their resoluteness. Burnley were relegated after one season in the top flight last time around, but they’re making a much better fist of it so far this term. It’s true that they’ve been comfortably beaten away in the league by Chelsea, Leicester and Southampton this season, but West Brom are hardly turning the Hawthorns into a fortress and the Clarets are fair value to get a result.
The Baggies 2-1 win at Leicester was just their third in eleven league games, and brought to an end a winless run of five games. It’s worth remembering however, that the Foxes were backing up from a midweek Champions League game, and West Brom haven’t strung together two Premier League wins since a New Year double over Newcastle and Stoke. In fact, they’ve won just four of the last 19 competitive home games – so backing them to win here takes a leap of faith regardless of the opposition.
The onus will be on West Brom to attack the game here, but that is not the kind of tactic that Tony Pulis teams thrive on, and Burnley will make themselves tough to break down.
Middlesbrough v Chelsea
The season started with a bang for newly promoted Boro after a draw with Stoke and victory over Sunderland, but they proceeded to go seven without a win after that until the 2-0 defeat of Bournemouth at the end of October. The last-gasp draw with Manchester City was an excellent result last time out, but in truth the Citizen’s should have been out of sight by then. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent point for the Smoggies in the search for survival, but as ever, their season won’t be judged on results against the top sides. Palace, Spurs and Watford have already won at the Riverside this season, and Chelsea should be far too good on Sunday.
Since implementing his preferred formation at Chelsea the Blues have been foot-perfect, winning five league games in a row. They’ve beaten Everton, Southampton, Manchester United, Leicester and Hull without conceding a goal, and have scored an impressive 16 goals in that sequence. A 2-1 EFL Cup defeat at West Ham was the only interruption during that run, but one suspects Conte won’t be losing sleep over being out of that competition. Before the start of the weekend games, Chelsea are 2nd in the table with 25 points, just one behind leaders Liverpool. Confidence has been returned to the squad after the dismal season last year, and they are fancied to challenge for the title all the way to the end.
Burnley or Draw
Monday 21st November, 20:00 GMT
Chelsea to beat Middlesbrough
Sunday 20th November, 16:00 GMT