Middlesbrough vs Chelsea: 3 things to look out for

Chelsea v Preston North End - Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Chelsea v Preston North End - Emirates FA Cup Third Round / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Following their triumph in the FA Cup third round, Chelsea now directs their attention to another domestic competition scheduled for Tuesday night. The Blues will visit Middlesbrough in the initial leg of the League Cup semi-final. Currently, the hosts hold a mere one-point advantage over Preston North End, Chelsea's opponent from last Saturday, in the Championship standings. The similarity in their positions in the table should serve as encouragement for fans hailing from West London.

Here are three things to look forward to.

1. Team rotation.

The weekend's match witnessed Alfie Gilchrist securing his first start for Chelsea, alongside debuts for Michael Golding and valuable minutes for Devid Washington. Expecting a repetition, let alone an enhancement, of such occurrences would be far-fetched. Considering it's an away match and the first leg, Mauricio Pochettino would be eager to establish an advantage before the subsequent home leg.

With over ten players currently sidelined due to injuries, Chelsea faces a challenging situation that adds complexity for Pochettino. The Argentine manager will be optimistic about an improved first-half performance on Tuesday night, providing an opportunity to afford essential rest to key players before upcoming fixtures. Anticipate the return of Noni Madueke and Thiago Silva to the starting lineup.

2. First-half performance.

As previously highlighted, Pochettino's foremost expectation for the upcoming match is an improved first-half performance from Chelsea. In their match against Preston, his team lacked intent and desire, particularly in the initial period. The tide only turned in the second half when Armando Broja, connecting with Malo Gusto's cross, broke the deadlock, significantly altering the complexion of the entire match.

3. Attitude.

Pochettino's viewpoint ahead of the match may not resonate well with Chelsea fans, as hearing such sentiments from their manager is less than ideal. However, the players must deliver performances that defy such negative assessments from their coach. The traveling fans are poised to assert Chelsea's standing in the football world, regardless of the results over the past 18 months.

As witnessed in the last match, scoring the first goal will be significant. The sooner the Blues find the back of the net, the more it will alleviate nerves among players and the fans. Middlesbrough supporters will be eager to highlight what they perceive as Chelsea's decline. It now falls upon the attitude of Chelsea's young squad to respond to these critics on the field.