INSIDE THE OPPOSITION: Middlesbrough

Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough are the visitors to the Etihad Stadium at 3pm this Saturday.

Ahead of the match, we caught up with Rob from oneBoro to get the low down on how the Teessiders and City old boy Álvaro Negredo have been getting on so far this season.

Middlesbrough v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League

TC: So Rob, welcome back to the Premier League, it’s great to have you back! How’s it been going for you so far?

ROB: Thanks, it’s good to be back! The season has been going fairly well I’d say, we’ve dropped a couple of unnecessary points against Watford and Palace, however to be sitting in 15th with 10 points is a decent return.

TC: What have you made of City so far this season?

ROB: Sitting top of the table with a world class manager, from an outside perspective it would suggest Man City are on course to win the Premier League. City obviously had a bit of a blip earlier in the season, but returning to winning ways against West Brom and easing past Barcelona in the Champions League, this blip is now forgotten about.

TC: It’s early days, of course, but City are top of the Premier League and Boro are looking pretty comfortable in 15th. Do you think we’ll win the title and Boro will stay up?

ROB: Yes and yes. It’s going to be a close call at both ends of the table, however I believe City have enough experience to be champions come May. As for if Boro will stay up, I think we’ll just do it. We’ve got a difficult end to the season so we need to get as many points on the board as soon as we can (3 points on Saturday will be a big help).

Arsenal v Middlesbrough - Premier League

TC: You’ve got a former City player playing up front for you in Álvaro Negredo. He was a fan favourite here for half a season in which he and Sergio Agüero formed a devastating strike partnership but then his form fell off a cliff in the second half of the season and he ended up going back to Spain under mysterious circumstances after just one year in England. How’s he been getting on at the Riverside so far?

ROB: He’s gained mixed reviews on Boro forums, he’s lacking confidence in front of goal, but is forming a crucial part of Karanka’s system by playing a part in half of the goals Boro have scored this season.

TC: Aitor Karanka came dangerously close to leaving Boro last season but thankfully, he stayed on and got you promoted. What are your thoughts on your boss and how important is he to the club?

FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-MIDDLESBROUGH

ROB: Karanka has done an exceptional job since joining Boro. He came in at a time when we were near to the bottom of the Championship and has managed to turn the team around and play with confidence. The next big challenge is keeping us up!

TC: What do you think are Boro’s strengths and weaknesses and who would you say is your key player?

ROB: We’ll be short of goals this season, but we know that. Karanka sets his team out to be defensively strong, we saw this last season and relied on our solid defence to get us promoted. As long as it doesn’t come down to goal difference for Premier League survival this season, I’ll be happy.

As for a key player, I’d say Ben Gibson. The defender is in contention for a call up to the England squad having seamlessly adapted to Premier League life.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

TC: Boro knocked us out of the FA Cup a couple of years ago and, of course, how could we forget the time you beat us 8-1? What would you say is your favourite memory of matches between our clubs?

ROB: Both of the results you mention are pretty special. The 2-0 FA Cup win in 2015 gave us a taster for the Premier League and in a sense, gave us the confidence that we could compete with the top teams. I don’t think we’ll see a similar 8-1 score any time soon (I haven’t tempted fate have I!?)

Police contain Manchester City fans duri

TC: And finally, your prediction for Saturday’s match please?

ROB: I’m hoping for a close game, if we set ourselves up like we did against Arsenal I can see it finishing 1-1 with Negredo opening the scoring on his return to the Etihad.

Check out oneBoro’s preview of the match here.

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Good times, for a change

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