The fact that Middlesbrough are sitting in 2nd position in the Sky Bet Championship won’t be a suprise to many, as they have enjoyed a fantastic season so far, and despite a recent blip in form, will be confident of securing a return to the Premier League. Losses against Blackburn, Rotherham and Charlton, along with confusion over manager Aitor Karanka’s future resulted in a slip out of the top two, but in recent weeks victories against Hull and QPR have propelled them back into those much-desired promotion spots. In order for their charge to continue, they must overcome David Wagner’s Huddersfield side, who have yet to manage more than a point against any of the top six teams (1 point – draw at home to Brighton).
Wagner is expected to make changes to his team who narrowly lost 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, whilst Middlesbrough, despite having one more day to prepare for the fixture, could also make changes. For both sides, this is the second league game in a week.
Middlesborough undoubtedly have one of, if not the strongest squads in the league – however it has come at a price. Chairman Steve Gibson has financially supported manager Karanka considerably over the last few years, giving him the funds to sign Stewart Downing (£6mil), Jordan Rhodes (£9mil), David Nugent (£4mil), and Cristhian Stuani (£3mil). These are just a few of the quality players that Karanka has in his ranks, with Daniel Ayala (who is tipped as one of the best defenders in the league), and not to mention the once-town star Adam Clayton who has established himself as one of the very best in the division. ‘Boro seem to have hit a bit of form heading into the final stretch of the season, and for that reason, Town will have to be at their very best to get anything from the game.
The terriers will have to defend as well as they did for the most part against Wednesday on Saturday, and also offer more going forward. Wagner’s side is known for its attacking flair, however this wasn’t quite as evident at the weekend. Nahki Wells will be key, as Town won’t get too many chances – in the ones they do get, they will have to be clinical. As for other key players, the game could see Dean Whitehead be matched with his former colleague Clayton, and that could be a match-deciding battle. A performance as good as the one from Joel Lynch on Saturday also wouldn’t go a miss, with the centre back likely to be handed the job of keeping a certain Jordan Rhodes quiet.
The Middlesborough view, courtesy of @borofan2000 :
What are your thoughts on Middlesborough’s season? “I am very happy with our league position as it gives us a great chance of promotion. However lately we have lost a few games which we were expected to win comfortably.”
Which three ‘Boro players should Town see as a threat? “Jordan Rhodes is a clinical player who scores goals and is good in the air. Daniel Ayala is a very strong centre back who is capable of marking any championship striker. Adam Clayton is a great passer and can help out the defence.”
Which three Town players do you see as a threat? “Dean Whitehead is a strong player and a good leader. Nahki Wells is a promising young goalscorer and a danger to our defence. Jamie Paterson is a good passer of the ball and capable of unlocking a defence.”
Will Middlesbrough get promotion? “I think so because even though we still have Brighton and Burnley to play, we are very good at beating the teams around us. Also the majority of our remaining games are at home, and our home form is very good which will provide a major boost.”
What are your views of Huddersfield Town under David Wagner? “I think he has done a good job in keeping Huddersfield in the championship without a lot of money to spend. They have built slowly since their promotion from league one.”
Score Prediction: “Middlesbrough 2-0 Huddersfield, Rhodes and Ramirez to score.”