WILLIE DUNCAN (@Willie_Duncan) shares his favourite fancy for Middlesbrough’s FA Cup clash against Man City.
Middlesbrough v Manchester City| Saturday 12:30 | BT Sport 2
There’s a Middlesbrough fan in my workplace and he has looked decidedly pale in recent weeks; he has a real sense of foreboding that his team are destined to slide out of the Premier League at the end of the current campaign.
You would think, then, that Saturday’s cup clash against Manchester City would be one that he – and other Boro fans – would be looking forward to; a chance to enjoy the escapism that cup football can bring.
Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to imagine that Boro fans are too excited about this clash, for they will face a particularly tough task against Pep Guardiola’s team on Teesside when the FA Cup quarter-finals get underway on Saturday lunchtime.
Middlesbrough’s form has been miserable in recent months; Aitor Karanka’s men have failed to win any of their last 10 matches against teams from the top flight and, worse still, Boro have failed to bag a single goal in any of their last four league games.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, by contrast, have been in fine form since being jolted to life by a humiliating 4-0 defeat against Everton at Goodison Park back in January.
The men from Manchester have avoided being beaten in each of their last 10 competitive fixtures, with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss overseeing seven wins from his side’s last nine matches.
City, too, have looked pretty sharp in front of goal; they have scored 25 goals in their last 10 games, including five apiece against Monaco and Huddersfield respectively – although City also drew a blank in two of those matches, most recently against Stoke on Wednesday night.
Citizens to silence Boro
It’s not just in attack that City have impressed; Guardiola’s men have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine matches away from home – winning six of those games.
That does not bode well for Boro; Karanka’s side are struggling to score goals; indeed, Middlesbrough’s paltry return of 19 goals from 27 Premier League games is far fewer than any other team in the top-tier.
Should that wretched record continue, Boro will surely struggle to remain in FA Cup contention beyond the final peep of the referee’s whistle on Saturday afternoon.
Value, therefore, could lie in the 13/10 (Stan James) quote from Paddy Power for Manchester City to win without conceding in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final curtain-raiser.
Middlesbrough v Manchester City – Manchester City to win ‘to nil’ (13/10 Stan James)