Chelsea have been on a rampant run of five consecutive wins. And that has seen them jump into second place heading into their Sunday night Premier League clash against Middlesbrough. The Blues’ recent run has not only impressed the fans but seems to have garnered faith in their abilities from opposition managers as well.
You can count Middlesbrough’s Spanish coach Aitor Karanka as one of them. Speaking to SkySports ahead of the game, the former Real Madrid assistant coach went as far as proclaiming that Antonio Conte’s men are the favourites for the title
"Antonio [Conte] has done very well and is settling into the league very well. They are second within a couple of months and showing they are a really consistent team.
"I think they are really favourites to win the league because they take advantage of not playing in the Champions League or Europa League.
Middlesbrough, on the other hand, haven’t had the best of times since returning to the Premier League this season after a space of ** years. Boro had gone five on a winless streak of seven games before winning against Bournemouth which was followed by a mood-lifting draw against Manchester City at The Etihad.
"It was important to win against Bournemouth and our crowd deserved to go home happy,” Karanka said on Friday. “After that and the Arsenal and City games, we are more confident, but we know it's going to be a really tough game.
"It's another nice challenge for us. "To play against Chelsea in the way they are is tough.
"But we've worked hard to play these types of games, so it's another amazing one for us.”
Karanka, who is enjoying three years in charge at the Riverside stadium, has led a revolution of sorts at the club. After being in the doldrums of the Championship for many years, the Spaniard’s arrival had ushered in a new wave of optimism. The first non-British manager of the club led the team to the playoffs in his first full season in charge and followed it up with a promotion winning campaign last time round.
However, the Spaniard has no time to look back at his achievements as he knows full well what lies ahead for his side.
"When I came here the team was not in a good way and I felt I could do something nice," he said.
"The chairman and the club and the area deserved to be in the Premier League. Thanks to the chairman and my staff and the players, we are here.
"As a manager, you can't think long term. As a player you can dream about titles and trophies but, especially me, I cannot think about five or 10 or 15 years.”
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