Middlesbrough will be making the daunting trip to the Etihad Stadium to face a Manchester City side who are fresh from dispatching Barcelona 3-1 in the Champions League. The football fraternity was in awe of the manner in which Manchester City dismantled Barcelona and there have been suggestions that the League will be City’s to lose. But Pep will not be entertaining any such talk and his focus will be to keep getting City better and better. A Manchester City side with a year of the Catalan’s coaching seems to be a frightening prospect but as of now, they will be keen to focus on the present which is an Aitor Karanka managed Boro team.
Karanka was in Mourinho’s coaching staff at Real Madrid and coming up against Pep will be a personal milestone of sorts for him. He has overseen a promotion to the Premier League and his next target will be to ensure survival and then build on that foundation. Boro are currently in the 15th spot but they look like a team improving with every game. Their highlight of the season was probably the 0-0 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates, a result which they followed up with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth which was incidentally only their 2nd win in 10 matches.
While not many will be backing Boro, they will be playing without any sort of pressure and the longer they are able to ward off City’s attack the more jittery City will get.
T4O’s PREDICTED MIDDLESBROUGH LINE-UP VS MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1)
Victor Valdes will be between the sticks and will be prepared for a busy day in the office. It is imperative that the former Barca keeper is in top form when he faces the manager he has had so much success under. Boro have a more of less settled back line with Barragan at right-back and a central defensive pairing of Chambers and Gibson. George Friend will be at left-back.
There might be some alterations in the double pivot with Marten de Roon and Grant Leadbitter providing alternatives to Adam Forshaw and Adam Clayton. With Ramirez suspended, Karanka might look to bring in one of the above to bolster the defensive side of things.
Adama Traore is a certainty and his pace will be used to trouble the jittery City backline, like he did against Arsenal. Stewart Downing offers balance to the flanks and he will need to do a lot of defensive work as well. A special mention for the lone striker Alvaro Negredo who will be returning to the Etihad and he will get a warm response from the home crowd.
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