Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 4/9
Middlesbrough play host to Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime in an FA Cup quarter-final clash that will decide which set of fans make a memorable trip to Wembley in April.
Middlesbrough are in big trouble in the Premier League after finding themselves in the relegation zone and three points from safety. They have picked up just four draws in the last nine games and their goal scoring has been a real issue after netting just twice in that time. However, their form in the FA Cup has been quite the opposite after beating three teams to get to this stage. Although they have played lower league opposition at the Riverside Stadium in all previous rounds, they have still managed to score seven goals and boss Aitor Karanka will be hoping they can continue this cup run on Saturday. The Boro manager has come under stick from supporters in recent weeks for their lack of creativity in the final third of the pitch. But their defensive shape has been solid and if recent cup history is anything to go by, Middlesbrough fans may be in for a surprise after winning four of the sides’ last four meetings against City.
Calum Chambers, Daniel Ayala and George Friend will miss the clash at the Riverside. Ben Gibson is likely to start, meaning Bernardo Espinosa and youngster Dael Fry will battle it out to partner him in defence. Midfielder Adlene Guedioura is cup-tied after playing for Watford earlier in the competition.
Manchester City’s title hopes took a major blow on Wednesday when they drew 0-0 to Stoke City at the Etihad, leaving them 10 points behind leaders Chelsea. Boss Pep Guardiola is currently enjoying a ten game unbeaten run and has won Premier League Manager of the Month award for February. The Spaniard has generally picked a strong side for the FA Cup this season and he may choose to do so again, with a fair bit of time before their game against Monaco in the Champions League on Wednesday night. At times the Citizens have looked fantastic attacking this campaign and although their defence has improved in recent weeks, there are still question marks over Guardiola’s philosophy. The former Barcelona manager may see this competition as his side’s best chance of silverware this season and if they finish in the top four as well, it may actually be seen by fans as a successful year.
Raheem Sterling is expected to come in for Leroy Sane after being rested against Stoke City midweek. Fabian Delph is also in line to play a part in the squad. Captain Vincent Kompany is fit again and may start in defence, whilst Claudio Bravo will remain in goal.
Key Factors to Consider
- Middlesbrough have eliminated Manchester City in four of their last five FA Cup meetings.
- City are the top scoring team left in the competition (13)
- Boro’s last appearance in the final four was in 2005/06 whilst City’s was 2012/13
- Patrick Bamford scored the opening goal in the last meeting between the two sides in this competition in 2015
Even though Middlesbrough have been solid defensively we expect Manchester City to come through this quite comfortably. Boro do not have enough fire power up front and the class of City in the final third will show, piling the pressure on Aitor Karanka.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 4/9
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