Going into the game it looks like we`re in the unenviable position of the Beasts being able to do the double over us in the Premiership for the first time. Having suffered a 1-0 reverse at the Riverside earlier in the season it`s imperative for the club to make a show of beating Boro if we`ve got any pretensions of even being a top half side.
Once again the local media are managing to make complete and utter tits of themselves by bigging the game up as some sort of derby and hyping the clash beyond belief. Listening to Metro on the radio I was unhappy with Steven Taylor for sinking to their level and describing it as one, even if he did say it wasn`t like the mackem games. I`ll happily reiterate the fact that getting beaten by Boro in the Autumn was a minor irritant, not the sort of depths of depression feeling that accompanies losing to the shower from the Wear. No matter how much they build it up it`ll never be a rivalry.
Last Autumn`s game was a turgid affair, being settled by a Yakubu header from a corner 5 minutes from time. His international teammate Oba rattled the bar with a great chip and Jimmy Milner missed a good chance but ultimately our lack of firepower was glaringly obvious even at that stage of the season. Fast forward a few months and our forward power has?dwindled. We no longer have Rossi on loan, seemingly replacing him with reserve team / youth team player Andy Carroll and Sibierski seems to be walking wounded. That leads Oba as our only threat. In opposition, Boro seem to have Viduka playing and scoring regularly, Malcolm Christie fit, Yakubu leading the line well and have replaced the haphazard Massimo Maccarone with Gook the Korean.
Last season Souness was saved by Clarkie popping up at the death and prolonging his stay of execution for a little while longer. This year anything but a positive performance and result will see the questions about Glenn being unable to manage his tactics and formations rear their head again.
Vital Quotes: Glenn Roeder
That is the motivator for lots of players nowadays, the thought if they do not play well, there is someone to take their place. For most of the season the players have gone out knowing if they did not play well, they’d play the next game. That is why I am pleased with the motivation they have shown.
Newcastle Team News:
For Newcastle the rest seems to have come at a good time. Having missed Dyer and Babayaro in our last outing at Wigan they all seem to be coming back from injury at the right time. Emre is still not fit for this one, being pencilled in for Alkmaar, but Zog will again be involved. The only absentees remain the long termers – Owen, Moorcelino and Shola. Really now GR has no excuses about the injury situation and needs to start getting his team selection right.
Player to watch: Obafemi Martins
So key to our season so far. His shootout with Yakubu will be the deciding factor in who gets the three points.
Middlesbrough Team News:
In a bizarre twist of fate just like last season Boro`s involvement in cup competitions could work in our favour. After beating them 2-1 last year at the Riverside a few days after a gruelling UEFA Cup tie, this time round there should be a lot of tired legs in the Boro side following their 120 minutes and penalties against West Brom in midweek. Abel Xavier (back), Fabio Rochemback (thigh) and Mark Schwarzer (back) were all missing from the side whilst George Boateng, Stuart Parnaby and Julio Arca seemed to come back from the Hawthorns crocked.
Player to watch: Jonathan Woodgate
The finest natural defender I`ve seen in a black and white shirt, can his hamstrings cope with Oba`s pace?
Match Facts & Stats
Boro have never done the double over us in the Premier League. FACT.
Viduka has scored 9 in his last 11.
Yakubu has scored 7 in his last 11.
2-1 to us.
Alkmaar at home next Thursday.