Preview: Middlesbrough v Blues – 11/08/18

Following last week’s gut-wrenching draw at home to Norwich, Blues go to the Riverside on the back of making four new signings, with the hope that there’s a few more to come before the loan deadline at the end of August.

Build Up

Last Saturday, in the 89th minute, Blues youngster Viv Solomon-Otabor placed the ball underneath Norwich ‘keeper Tim Krul to put Blues 2-1 up and on the verge of an opening day three points. Unfortunately, as per with Blues, Norwich equalised with virtually no time to spare, leaving Blues fans leaving St. Andrews like the game had just been lost.

On reflection, many positives come from the game and fills up the slight sense of optimism fans had before the season. Kristian Pedersen, who had a nervy first half, bounced back in the second and was consequently named in WhoScored’s team of the week. Connal Trueman, making his first team debut for Blues, made some important saves and looked composed in front of goal, especially if you consider that he had one of the most prolific Championship goalscorers shooting at him, in Jordan Rhodes.

In the meantime, Blues have brought in winger Connor Mahoney, forward Omar Bogle, goalkeeper Lee Camp and midfielder Gary Gardner. The additions add a bit of depth to the side, and Garry Monk has made it clear he would like to bring in a few more loan signings to strengthen the team to the best of his ability.

Opposition Opinion

For the buid-up to the game, We Are Birmingham spoke to to All About Boro:

With much respect to Birmingham, I think even though we haven’t exactly strengthened our squad, and that it’s arguably worst than what it was 2 weeks ago, we are still too strong for Birmingham. Tuesday’s victory gave me a lot more confidence in our team than I already had. I think that had something to do with our young players finally getting a chance to shine. Winger Lewis Wing has impressed so far. Also Martin Braithwaite who spend the second half of last season out on loan has come back a different footballer. They’re the ones to watch out for I think.

With our current squad, I can see us battling for 6th place at best. Our squad isn’t steong enough to be promoted, and TP has even come out and said that himself. Which means surely he is looking to strengthen in the loan market so if we get out targets, (Mo Besic, Yannick Bolasie etc) maybe that will bump us up to challenging for automatic promotion.

Half Time Prediction:

Middlesbrough 1-0 Birmingham

Full Time Prediction:

Middlesbrough 3-0 Birmingham

Predicted Boro Line-up:

(4-2-3-1) Randolph; Shotton, Fry, Flint, Friend; Clayton, Howson; Downing, Braithwaite, Wing; Assombalonga.

Blues Lineup

Despite the fresh new faces brought in over the last week, Monk will more than likely stick with a similar team that played Norwich. The only question mark surrounding the line-up seems to be who’s starting in goal, and the probability is that it will be Lee Camp, replacing Trueman. Although, as Monk is a fan of consistency, it wouldn’t be surprising either if Trueman started and the team was unchanged.

Guest Predictions

As per last season, we’ll be having a special guests in each match preview to predict their team and scores, however this season they will score points for each correct prediction and go on to a scoreboard.

Up next, is Professional Boxer and Blues fan Charlie Williams, who is a Midland Champion and International Title Holder.

Middlesbrough has always been a tough place to go to. Tony Pulis always has his team organised and I believe we will struggle to break them down

Half Time Prediction:

Middlesbrough 1-0 Birmingham

Full Time Prediction:

Middlesbrough 2-0 Birmingham

First Goal Scorer:

Britt Assombalonga

Guest Table

Currently the table is topped (and bottomed) by Chris Skudder who picked up 15 points with his predictions for the Norwich game!

Scoring: 1 point per correct player, 3 points for correct FGS, 5 points for correct score at HT, FT and correct result.

The Stats

Blues have a very poor record at The Riverside, with the only recent win coming in 2013 thanks to a Nikola Zigic goal.

Middlesbrough haven’t lost a home league match when scoring first since March 2014 – this equals to a 55 home game unbeaten run (49 wins, 6 draws) when scoring first.

Gary and Craig Gardner will be the first family link-up at St. Andrews since Steve Bruce was manager with his son Alex Bruce as a player. Should both the Gardner’s play, they will be the first ever brothers to play for Blues.

Pre-match Quotes

Birmingham City manager Garry Monk on the new additions to the squad:

In terms of how we can work under the circumstances, where we can’t spend any money, we’re very pleased with the work we’ve done so far.

They are guys that not only strengthen the squad profile-wise and positionally, but also with the type of players they are

Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis discusses promotion hopes and future transfers for the hosts:

Last year we had targets, and managed to reach the play-offs and improved the players we had here.  I think the reason we fell short was because of a lack of depth.

There’s still openings to sort stuff, and there has to be more depth to this squad. It’s got to be a busy next few weeks.

Jordan Marley is a current journalism student at The University of Salford; a long-suffering Blues fan who also writes for the Huffington Post and Quays News.