Following only their second loss of the season, a 1-0 home defeat to Norwich last Saturday, Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough side could have been forgiven for being a little flat when they faced off against floundering Derby County in midweek.
Warnock, however, had his side ready to roll and Boro went on to put three goals past Liam Rosenior and Wayne Rooney’s Rams en route to a resounding victory.
Despite being in and around the play-off places since the early weeks of the season, Swansea City are the only side in the top six that Middlesbrough have not yet played, with them picking up five points from the possible 15 from those games, including a win over – then table-topping – Bristol City.
Conversely, Boro have only played two of the current bottom six sides. From these ties against Coventry and Derby, Warnock’s men have picked up six points, scoring five of their 12 goals this season in these fixtures.
Huddersfield, on the other hand, are winless in their last four matches, having just drawn 0-0 with Wycombe in midweek. Ex Leeds Under 23s coach Carlos Corberan has won four of his opening 13 matches in his first managerial position outside the Cypriot league.
(Strangely that is one game less than the Teesside outfit, but Boro sit nine places above the Terriers with a six point gap between the sides.)
Middlesbrough will still be without long-term absentees Ashley Fletcher and Grant Hall for the tie at the John Smith’s Stadium, with the ex QPR defender reportedly suffering a setback in his recovery from a calf injury sustained against his former club in September.
“Grant (Hall) has had a bit of a setback and we’ll have more news on Friday,” remarked Warnock in his post match press conference. As of writing there is no update to this news.
Warnock also updated the media on the possible return of Sam Morsy after the victory over Derby. The former Sheffield United boss claimed the Egyptian midfielder could return to the squad this weekend, but he would have to be cautious not to aggravate his injury.
As for Corberan’s men, defender Christopher Schindler sustained a concussion against Wycombe and will miss this weekend’s match along with midfielder Alex Pritchard and fullback Pipa, who are also ruled out of the tie, with the Spanish coach saying:
“They (Pritchard and Pipa) continue to be in the same process. They are in the last part of their recovery. They will be unavailable for tomorrow (against Middlesbrough.) I hope they are both days away from being available.”
Ahead of the 95th meeting between the sides, Middlesbrough have won 42 of 94 games, with Hudderfield taking victory 32 times.
The first meeting between the sides resulted in a 2-0 Middlesbrough victory on Christmas Day 1920, and the Teesside team would do the double over Huddersfield with a 1-0 win just two days after their first meeting.
In the 21st century, Boro have only been beaten once by the Terriers – a 2-1 win in West Yorkshire on March 5th 2013. Two late goals from Alan Lee and Danny Ward canceled out Scott McDonald’s 78th minute opener for Tony Mowbray’s men.
Middlesbrough have won six of 10 games since 2012 and prior to the 2013 defeat had not lost to Huddersfield since the first day of 1986, with the sides meeting seven times in the 27 years between Terrier triumphs – with Boro winning all seven.
Predicted Line Ups
After some clamoring from Middlesbrough fans on social media for Warnock to play a more attacking side against Norwich, we saw the Reds start two forwards in Britt Assombalonga and newly acquired Duncan Watmore with Patrick Roberts supporting from the right flank.
The latter two players have little match experience this season, so looked understandably sluggish against the Rams. It would be wise, however for Warnock to try and raise their match fitness by sticking with them in the side.
Watmore, however, may need more coaxing into the side after playing his first game for 9 months earlier this week. Should the ex Sunderland man be dropped to the bench, scorer of the final goal against Derby, Marvin Johnson could come back into the starting 11.
Predicted Middlesbrough XI: Bettinelli; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair, Bola; Howson, Tavernier, Saville; Roberts, Assombalonga, Johnson.
Predicted Huddersfield XI: Schofield; Bacuna, Stearman, Sarr, Toffolo; Eiting, Hogg, O’Brien; Mbenza, Campbell, Ward.