Sterling dropped, Gusto replacement, ‘new signing’ starts – Chelsea XI vs Middlesbrough picked

Mauricio Pochettino has some big calls to make for Chelsea as his squad remains depleted ahead of what could be a season-defining night against Middlesbrough. The Blues boss has already been subject to boos and anger from the Stamford Bridge supporters but any faith and trust built up would be severely trusted if his side fail to get to the Carabao Cup final.

Chelsea need to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first-leg as they welcome Michael Carrick’s Boro to west London on Tuesday. Anything but progression to Wembley will see the Argentine under intense pressure that he may not be able to come back from even if the club continue to back him.

With league form on the up there is hope that home advantage can lead Chelsea into a seventh domestic cup final since 2017. Pochettino will need all the help he can get though with no Christopher Nkunku, Romeo Lavia, Reece James, Marc Cucurella, Robert Sanchez or Malo Gusto for the match. Wesley Fofana is also out.

“It’s an important game for us,” the head coach admitted on Monday. “We want to be in the final but first of all we need to beat a very good team. In the first-leg, we could not beat them. We are confident we can have a very good game in front of our fans at Stamford Bridge. We need to take advantage of playing at Stamford Bridge.”

Chelsea have won each of their last six at home now with seven of the previous eight also being victories. Since the end of September the only game they have lost at SW6 was a 2-0 league defeat to Brentford. Channelling that form may well go some way to turning the tie around.

Here, football.london writers Tom Coley and Bobby Vincent pick their sides for the game.

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