Prediction: Middlesbrough to qualify
Premier League outfit Brighton & Hove Albion will be hoping to avoid an FA Cup upset on Saturday as they travel to the Riverside to play Championship side Middlesbrough.
Promotion-chasing Boro meanwhile will be hoping to reach the fifth round of the historic competition for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
It could be fair to assume that the North Yorkshire outfit have found life somewhat testing upon their return to Championship football. Currently sitting eighth in the table, they have lost ten of their 28 games and sacked manager Garry Monk in December. Their fortunes have improved slightly with the appointment of former West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City manager Tony Pulis, having won three out of the five games that the Welshman has presided over. As a matter of fact, Boro won their last game 3-0 against Queens Park Rangers to leave them only two points off of the play-off places.
The team’s FA Cup pedigree in recent years has been relatively impressive. They have reached the fifth round on four occasions in the last six seasons. The last time they managed that feat in 2017, they fell to Manchester City in the quarter-finals. Their home form in the competition should be something to worry Brighton. Boro have won four out of their last five home FA Cup clashes. However, they have only won one out of their last nine games against Premier League opposition in the competition – that solitary victory coming in the form of a 2-0 victory over Manchester City back in 2015. In that time, they have only managed to score five times and have conceded 14 goals.
Tony Pulis does not have any fresh injuries to worry about. However, rotation is expected with the club hoping to get their push for promotion firmly underway.
Brighton & Hove Albion
The Seagulls meanwhile come into the clash at the Riverside Stadium. They have only won two out of their last 14 games in all competitions. As a result, the team sit 16th in the Premier League table and only a point clear of the relegation zone. One aspect that they really do need to improve is their potency in front of goal having only netted 17 goals in league play this season – only rock-bottom Swansea City have netted fewer than Brighton. Nevertheless, the club record-signing of PSV forward Jürgen Locadia should go a long way in rectifying that statistic.
The Seagulls’ fortunes in the FA Cup have not been all to profitable in recent years. The team have only managed to reach the fifth round once in the last four campaigns. Chris Hughton’s troops were embarrassed last year in the competition after being ousted by then-Conference side Lincoln City. It does not look much better on their travels either. They have only managed to win two out of their last six FA Cup ties away from the Amex Stadium. In that time, they have conceded 13 goals.
Long-term absentees Izzy Brown and Steve Sidwell have already been ruled out for the trip to the Riverside, whilst Locadia has also been sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Key Facts To Consider
- The last match between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw at the Riverside in May 2016
- Middlesbrough hold the superior all-time record of the two (W23, D13, L9)
- The two teams have met in the FA Cup three times, with two draws and a solitary Boro victory
- Brighton have only beat Middlesbrough away from home three times throughout their entire history
- Boro have kept a clean sheet in six out of their last 11 clashes with the Seagulls
Whilst the Premier League team should have an advantage, in the case of Brighton, their Premier League survival is surely more valuable than a run in the FA Cup. Middlesbrough have players who could create plenty of problems for the Seagulls, and home advantage really could prove to be a factor in this clash.
Recent history also suggests that Middlesbrough should be favourites this weekend. The hosts then could potentially pull-off one of the upsets of the fourth round.
Prediction: Middlesbrough to qualify
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