Thursday, March 23, 2006

Middlesbrough Preview

This match has been covered from just about every conceivable angle over the last few weeks on the Charlton web, but it's proving far more difficult to get a handle on the way our opponents are gearing up for the clash.
Just how importantly do they view the match?

I've done more google searches that I care to remember, trying to track down a Middlesbrough site similar to our own forevercharlton, but I have now come to the conclusion that their fans either don't know how to use the internet (other than their rivals site), or that they simply don't have a massive online community. All of the relevant build up on their official page is sealed under the premiumtv lock and key, meaning that if you don't pay the subscription fee, you wont get to hear any of the official buildup; so we are left pretty much in the dark as to how strong a side they plan to put out this evening.

Perhaps it works to our advantage that they are still heavily involved in the UEFA Cup as well as the FA Cup and the Premiership. A poll on their official site shows that only 11% of Boro fans consider this match to be more important than their European Quarter Final with FC Basel exactly a week today. Perhaps they will rest one or two players, especially seeing as how they also have to face Bolton in the Premiership before jetting off to Switzerland presumably on Monday or Tuesday next week.

McLaren himself has already shown recently that he is perfectly willing to sacrafice 'smaller matches' in exchange for being able to field his strongest team in Europe. When Boro came to the Valley a fortnight ago, there were 9 changes from the team that took to the field against Roma in the match before. This Quarter Final is obviously more important than that Premiership match was, but how likely is Mclaren to risk an injury to a big player just 4 days before the team leaves Teeside for a date with the Swiss?

The form book shows that neither side can claim to be at the top of their game at the moment. Boro have lost their last three matches in all competitions, whilst from our point of view, Darren Bent's goals against Boro at the Valley remain our only victory, and indeed our only goals, in our last 5 matches.
Bent will obviously continue up front, but it remains to be seen whether Curbishley will persist in utilising the 5-3-2 formation he employed at Highbury last time out, or whether he will revert back to a 4-4-2, presumably with Bothroyd or Bartlett coming in up front alongside Darren. Jerome Thomas should also start. He single handedly turned the League game against Boro when he came off the bench, and Curbishley cannot have forgotten that.

So, the stage is set. The ground is going to be mostly sold out, it's live on the BBC, Tony Christie is going to lead the pre-match clap-along, and it's over to the players to prove just how much they want it.

On the bright side, we have already done the double over the side we are facing tonight.
On the other hand, we have never beaten Boro in the history of the FA Cup.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 2-2 draw (Bent, Bothroyd - Viduka, Yakubu)


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