The Build Up: Middlesbrough vs Cardiff
Cardiff City make the long trip from South Wales to the North East, as Boro host the in-form side at the Riverside Stadium.
Last time out Boro were dismantled by Bristol City on home soil; a run of back-to-back wins was abruptly ended as the away side left Teesside with all three points and a 3-1 win after a rampant first half performance.
The Robins entered in the worst possible form but the strike-force of Nakhi Wells and ex-Boro target Famara Diedhou proved too hot to handle for the Boro defence. A late consolation and a first senior goal for Dael Fry proved too little to late for Neil Warnock.
Boro will be desperate to put right the wrongs of Tuesday’s horror show. Several individual errors and a lack of defensive cohesion made for an ugly viewing for Boro fans. Ashley Fletcher, who came off just 23 minutes into the Bristol City defeat, will not be available for the game and is expected to miss the next “two or three weeks” according to manager Neil Warnock.
In more positive news Yannick Bolasie continued his progress this week and Warnock has revealed that he may be just a week away from fitness, with there being a chance of Bolasie and Marcus Tavernier featuring as early as next week.
Warnock named an unchanged line-up for the game on Tuesday, but after a dismal showing, changes are to be expected. Chuba Akpom was favoured ahead of Assombalonga, as Fletcher came off injured, which could be an indication that the summer signing could be set to make his first start since Boro’s defeat to Birmingham in mid-January.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is yet to start for Boro, but he faces the side that released him in November and will feel he has a point to prove to himself and the Cardiff hierarchy.
Cardiff City come into the game as the in-form team of the Championship, having won all their last six games. Mick McCarthy couldn’t have hoped for a better start as manager and since taking over from Neil Harris, the former Republic of Ireland manager has accumulated 20 points from a possible 24.
Cardiff have found themselves on the right side of a goalscoring haul lately, and top scorer Kieffer Moore has scored five in his last six under McCarthy. The striker allegedly turned down a move to Boro in the summer in favour of a move to Wales, where he has blossomed having scored 15 in 28 games.
Cardiff boast a few former Reds with Joe Bennett, Aden Flint and Lee Tomlin amongst their ranks. Having joined in 2016, Bennett has become a long-standing Bluebird and has racked up 175 appearances in a Cardiff City kit. Flint has been given a new lease of life since McCarthy’s arrival whilst Tomlin has struggled with a long-term groin problem and will miss Saturday’s game.
The two sides met in October and shared the spoils as Boro left South Wales following a 1-1 draw. Neil Warnock faced his former side for the second time as Boro manager and a George Saville opener shortly before half time was not enough to see the Teessiders return to the North East with all three points. Sheyi Ojo levelled for the Bluebirds in the 70th minute to ensure it wasn’t a perfect return for their former manager.
Boro have had success in the city of Cardiff this century, bringing home their first ever major trophy. However, their record against Cardiff isn’t the best viewing for Boro fans as it is the Bluebirds who boast the better head-to-head record.
Boro Wins: 21
Cardiff Wins: 33