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Blues aim to push on against Boro

sports Updated: Jan 27, 2009 12:14 IST
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Chelsea will go into Wednesday's Premier League clash against strugglers Middlesbrough looking to keep up the pressure on league leaders Manchester United and second-placed Liverpool.

Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will have one eye on Sunday's summit clash with the Merseysiders as he attempts to prolong the Blues' promising recent run of three straight victories.

Chelsea's humiliating 3-0 reverse to United at Old Trafford on January 11 saw many write off their title ambitions but their encouraging form since, which left them two points behind the leading duo heading into this week's matches, will have given their fans new belief.

Scolari's side managed a comfortable 3-1 home win over mid-table Championship side Ipswich Town in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday thanks to two goals from Germany midfielder Michael Ballack.

Not that he was getting carried away ahead of Wednesday's match.

"We have dropped too many points at home and we have to be careful," Ballack warned.

Chelsea will have to do without Carlo Cudicini for Wednesday's clash after Tottenham signed the club's reserve goalkeeper on a free transfer on Monday.

Middlesbrough also made it through to the last 16 of the FA Cup on Saturday with a 2-1 win at Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The result, thanks to a late winner from Dutch striker Marvin Emnes, eased the pressure on Boro boss Gareth Southgate, whose side are rooted in the bottom three after a dreadful run of 10 league games without a win.

The Teessiders' last Premier League outing ended in a 3-0 thumping at bottom club West Bromwich Albion and Southgate may turn to new signing Marlon King in his search for a greater goal threat.

The on-loan striker, who joined the club from Wigan last week, could replace Brazilian frontman Afonso Alves who is struggling with an Achilles injury sustained during Boro's win at Wolves.

"He was raked down the side of his Achilles so we took him off," Southgate told Middlesbrough's Evening Gazette newspaper.

"We need to see what reaction he gets but we hope he will be fit because he is playing well and scoring goals.

"Marlon is fully fit. He's been playing regularly and we can slot him in without any worries."

Left-back Andrew Taylor hobbled off early on in Saturday's game and Mohamed Shawky is also doubtful after coming off at half-time with a hamstring problem, while Julio Arca is suffering from a virus.

Matthew Bates, who came on as a stop-gap midfielder in the second-half at Molineux, could be handed the job from the start at Chelsea.

However, Southgate will not have the option of turning to Ben Watson after Wigan Athletic signed the Crystal Palace midfielder from under Boro's noses.

The Latics paid an estimated two million pounds for the former England Under-21 international, the same figure Middlesbrough had seen accepted last Thursday before Watson underwent a medical and the deal collapsed.

"It's disappointing to see Ben go to Wigan because we have put a couple of months into trying to make it happen," said Southgate.