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Chelsea v Middlesbrough - Carabao Cup Semi Final Second Leg

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Fan Focus: Middlesbrough fan Jonny is predicting a win for his team against Sunderland!

Ahead of the Wear-Tees clash, we spoke to Jonny from The Boro Breakdown Podcast, who’s feeling confident that Michael Carrick’s side can do the double over Sunderland!

Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

We’ll start with the January transfer window, during which Morgan Rogers left late on to join Aston Villa.

Were you disappointed to see no replacement come in?

Our replacement is already at the club in Finn Azaz, with Riley McGree coming back from international duty with Australia, so I think we’ll be fine in that area.

In terms of incomings, Finn Azaz joined permanently, with full-backs Luke Ayling and Luke Thomas joining on loan.

What have they brought to the table?

Azaz and Ayling have started off reasonably well.

They’ve only been involved in two games as they were both cup tied, but they’ve fitted in well so far.

Luke Thomas has yet to play, given that we’ve not played in ten days, so he may make his debut against Sunderland.

Sunderland vs Middlesbrough Sky Bet Championship
Izzy Jones caused vast problems against Sunderland earlier this season and will be a big miss for Boro.
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Without Rogers and the injured duo of Izzy Jones and Emmanuel Latte Lath, it seems as though you’ve lost all the pace in the team going forward.

Who will Michael Carrick be relying on in attack?

We’ve had a lot of injuries this year. On average there have been fourteen players out injured so we’ve had to chop and change a lot.

Fortunately, Marcus Forss, who scored against Sunderland earlier this season, has returned to the team and has scored two goals in three games.

On Sunday, I think we’ll start with Sam Greenwood up front with Matt Crooks, Azaz and Forss in behind.

Australian goalkeeper Tom Glover will continue to deputise for the injured Seny Dieng.

How has he performed since stepping in?

Really well. He’s been a safe pair of hands over the last few games.

He’s a good shot stopper with some excellent distributional ability.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fourth Round - Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Stadium of Light
Sunderland’s last victory at the Riverside came under Martin O’Neill against our old friend Tony Mowbray.
Photo by Steve Drew - PA Images via Getty Images

I feel as though Middlesbrough are often more motivated for these matches than Sunderland, which is a credit to them.

Do you think, after having lost by four goals to yourselves and three to Newcastle this year, Sunderland will be out to restore some local pride?

It’s only a derby when Sunderland win!

It’s a game with a bit of spice to it and to be honest, whether Sunderland fans like it or not, I think there’s a lot of pressure on Michael Beale to get a result.

I’ll be very keen to see the fallout if Sunderland lose.

Similarly to Sunderland, Middlesbrough have generally won then lost games for most of the season.

What are the key reasons behind that lack of consistency?

Injuries, mainly.

On average we’ve had fourteen players out and when one returns, another seems to get injured, so we’ve really struggled to field a consistent eleven for most of the season.

It’s frustrating, but on our day we’re a really good side.

You’re currently four points off the playoffs, so is there still belief among the fans that Carrick can deliver a late run of form again?

Of course. We’re a good side and there’s always a chance.

However, I do think we’re looking to next season as ‘the year’ to really push on.

I read that ex-Sunderland midfielder Paddy McNair’s contract is up at the end of this season.

Do you think it’ll be renewed as he doesn’t seem to have kicked on at this level?

I think he’s gone, to be honest.

He’s been a great professional but it’s time to go our separate ways.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship
Paddy McNair could be a free agent in the summer, with his contract set to expire.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How do you think Carrick will set up tactically for the match?

The same as always, and we’ll rotate the shape as we play.

4-2-3-1 is the setup, but you’ll see us move into 3-2-5 or a 2-4-4 depending on where we are.

We like to keep the ball, take our time and work the ball into the box.

Which Middlesbrough players are missing and which eleven players do you think will start?

Injured/international duty: Dieng, Smith, Lenihan; Bangura, McNair, McGree; Silvera, Jones, Latte Lath.

Doubtful: Coburn.

Starting XI: Glover (GK), Ayling, Fry; Van Den Berg, Engel, Howson; Hackney, Forss, Crooks; Azaz, Greenwood.

Sunderland’s last win at the Riverside came back in 2012, so what’s your prediction for the final score?

2-1 to Middlesbrough.


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