Victory at West Brom on Friday will confirm Chelsea as Premier League champions after a 3-0 win relegates Middlesbrough
It was a rare to have a night when two teams had such contrasting stories at the final whistle. For Chelsea, the mathematics are simple now and surely nobody can think those celebrations at the end, with Antonio Conte on the pitch to embrace each of his players, were premature. His side will be champions with one more win and they looked absolutely determined to play in that manner against a Middlesbrough team that quietly drops into the Championship, relegated after only one season back in the top division.
If everything goes according to plan, Chelsea can wrap things up when they play at West Bromwich Albion on Friday. Alternatively, it could possibly stretch to their next home game against Watford the following Monday if, that is, Tottenham Hotspur can beat Manchester United the previous day. All that is certain, for now, is that Chelsea have a seven-point lead with three games to go and their supporters can probably be forgiven for going through their victory songs. Tottenham Hotspur, its happened again, was one late chorus from the Matthew Harding Stand.
They can afford to gloat because the chances of Contes side unravelling from this position are somewhere between minimal and non-existent. They will be deserving champions and their latest victory was typical of the high-energy domination that has brought them to this happiness. Chelsea did not have a single period of the match when they lost control. They won with something to spare and, if anything, it was a surprise they did not treat themselves to even more goals.
Middlesbrough, meanwhile, looked what they are: a team that has drifted aimlessly towards relegation, with 26 goals from 36 games. This was the 17th time this season they have failed to score in the league. They have not won at Stamford Bridge since Jack Charlton was manager in 1975 and that 42-year run was never likely to be threatened bearing in mind they have not beaten a single side from the top half of the league all season. Middlesbroughs solitary away win came at Sunderland in August and they were obliging opponents for a team with Chelseas haughty ambitions.
The champions-elect certainly did not miss NGolo Kant, absent with a thigh injury on the day he was name the Football Writers Association Player of the Year to go with the award he has already received from the Professional Footballers Association. Cesc Fbregas fitted seamlessly into midfield, passing the ball with wonderful elegance, setting up two of the goals and delivering a man-of-the-match performance. On this evidence, Kant deserves the seasons individual honours if he has kept this man out of the side.