Middlesbrough v Tottenham | Sunday 5th January 2020, 14:00 | BT Sport
Middlesbrough look to cause something of an FA Cup 3rd Round shock when they entertain Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, and they couldn’t enter this contest in better shape. Boro are on a four-match winning run, which includes back-to-back 2-0 away victories at West Brom and Preston. Spurs have won one in four, and suffered a setback to Southampton last time out.
The recent run of Middlesbrough is made all the more better knowing that they continue to struggle with a lengthy injury list, and to key players. Darren Randolph, George Friend and Britt Assombalonga very much headline that particular category, whilst the experience of Ryan Shotton is another miss.
Still, there has been no fluke whatsoever about their recent upturn in results. They ended West Brom’s unbeaten home run this season, whilst Preston have the strongest home record in the Championship. Defeating a resurgent Huddersfield was also a noteworthy triumph, and three clean sheets in succession is arguably what pleases former Real Madrid defender Jonathan Woodgate most of all.
Jose Mourinho could seemingly do no wrong in the early stages of his tenure after beating West Ham, Olympiakos and Bournemouth in his first three games, recording 10 goals in the process. Sure, they’ve smashed Burnley and won away at Wolves since then, but there is a growing fear that the Tottenham of now are starting to become the Manchester United of a few years ago from Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford.
Even when winning at Wolves there was something of a smash-and-grab about it, whilst they looked extremely lacklustre in defeat to Chelsea. Mourinho has started to chirp up with his usual outlandish comments in the media once more, this time criticising the Southampton coaching staff following an alteration. To make matters worse, star striker Harry Kane was injured in that game and will miss this trip to Boro.
One thing in Spurs’ column is that Mourinho himself has all but said that he is going all out for this cup competition. With Spurs out of the Carabao Cup at the expense of Colchester under the management of former boss Mauricio Pochettino, the FA Cup represents their most realistic shot of silverware this season.
However, after Jose has been critical of the scheduling of games over the festive period, there is every chance a degree of rotation could present itself. Boro have no real luxury of doing so, baring a couple of potential alterations.
There is no way I’m touching Spurs at odds-on in this game, regardless of if Mourinho wants to win this cup or not. They’re missing Kane and that heavily weakens them, fact. Boro are certainly on the up, but this will be a good test for them, and one they’ll relish. They’ve improved defensively of late, and with Spurs missing Kane they too could look to keep things tight to begin with until they settle down into a rhythm without their talisman.
The Half Time Draw at 141/100 (Marathon) I feel is a worthy call. Under 2.5 Goals at 5/4 (Betfair) will also have some legs to it as well. A Jose defensive masterclass could be incoming to try and negotiate this tricky cup tie, whilst Woodgate may be wary of being too gung-ho in this one.