Fulham v Middlesbrough: Two angles to consider at the Cottage

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Friday night's match-up between Fulham and Middlesbrough.

Fulham v Middlesbrough | Friday 17th January 2020, 19:45 | Sky Sports

We all love a bit of Championship action on Friday night and Fulham versus Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage is a game which potentially promises so much, but what will it deliver?

It presents promotion-hunting Fulham, who would close the gap to the top-two to four points with a victory, whilst in-form Middlesbrough look to move further away from the drop zone and start to look up the table for a change.

Fulham to miss their talisman

Perhaps the first thing we should mention ahead of this encounter is that there is a very strong possibility that Fulham will be missing their star man Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian international was forced off late in last weekend’s away win at Hull City, and Scott Parker revealed afterwards that it is quite a bad one.

How much of an impact will his absence have? Well, quite a bit. Whilst Fulham do have decent strength in depth across the squad in most areas, it could be argued the striker position is their lightest in the squad.

Mitrovic when fit always plays, and not too many fancy being understudies. Bobby Reid can move into this role, but has been playing in midfield more recently, whilst Aboubakar Kamara is another alternative, but he has played only 92 minutes combined across their last six games.

‘Mitro’ is responsible for 43.90% of Fulham’s Championship goals this season, but the Cottagers don’t lack for creativity, which is a big plus. Parker will always back his team to create and ultimately score goals, and consider that they’ve won their last two games that the ex-Newcastle man has been unavailable. His likely absence is perhaps why Fulham are a more appealing price to the average punter on Friday.

Boro not making up the numbers

However, one thing that should not be done is lightly passing over Middlesbrough in this one. A month or so ago you would have given them no chance to going to Fulham and coming away with anything. Jonathan Woodgate’s side were in retched form and couldn’t buy a win or a goal.

Things have changed. They’re now five Championship matches without defeat, but it does remain to be seen what impact having to play an FA Cup replay away at Tottenham only a few days’ ago does for their condition.

Still, Woodgate will be pleased to see his side look much more competitive. Goals are starting to arrive more freely, and that is despite missing Britt Assombalonga for quite a significant chunk of the campaign. He is nearing a comeback but this match may come just too soon for him to be involved.

In Boro’s league unbeaten run, they’ve been away to both West Brom and Preston and left with maximum points. They deserve the upmost respect, and will probably relish the fact that Fulham will dominate the ball in this one, giving the Northern outfit the opportunity to play on the break.

The recent addition of Patrick Roberts has certainly caught the eye, and he started to look like his old self in the recent home draw with Derby County, so he is definitely a forward to keep an eye on.

The betting angle

There are a couple of interesting betting approaches which catch the eye on this occasion. My first thought was getting both teams to score on side. Fulham are anything but leaky defensively, but just two clean sheets in their last 10 at home is a concern, whilst we know what damage they can do in attack.

Boro have proved very stingy at the back of late, but you just wonder if their exploits at Spurs may catch up with them. They have a small squad and are having to go extra yards.

BTTS and Under 5 Goals is a 6/5 (Bet365) shot that I will take an interest in. Both Fulham and Middlesbrough have played 54 league games combined this season and only five of them overall has seen a minimum of five goals. This way we add a little extra value given BTTS itself is odds-on.

Our second and final play is a fairly rare venture to the corner market, but with good reason. 10.56 is the average amount of corners in Championship games this season, but for both Fulham and Middlesbrough their respective averages are 12.00, and on that basis Over 10.5 Corners must have a shot at 10/11 (Bet365) of being a winner.

You can certainly envisage this game being open enough to believe there will be action at either end, or at the very least in one team’s favour.

Best Bets

Fulham v Middlesbrough – Both Teams To Score and Under 5 Goals (6/5 Bet365)

Fulham v Middlesbrough – Over 10.5 Corners (10/11 Bet365)

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