Just because something has happened before does not automatically equate to it happening again (unless we are talking about forgetting birthdates – sorry, Mum, I am useless), but a quick look at H2H matches with Middlesbrough, at home, should bring a wry smile to any Blue’s face: PL57 W37 D9 L11
Yes, we all remember the 8-1 mauling, but one, that was away, and two, it was a game with extenuating circumstances – although I for one would never suggest that players had simply downed tools and had gone on holiday, because Sven was being kicked out of the club by then owner Shinawatra.*
Saturday will be the first time, in the league, we welcome Middlesbrough back to The Etihad since 2009 (yes, that was also a home win), and the first time we also welcome back the man formally known as The Beast, who by the way is not having the best of times in the NE of England, with a somewhat paltry one goal in 797 minutes.
One team not short of goals or talent is of course Manchester City, coming into this match off the back of one of the finest performances in recent times against Barcelona. There have been some mutterings that the Champion’s League match was possibly the greatest in (most people’s) living memory, maybe not in regards to importance (although this may end up proving to be up there) but certainly how the team performed as one coming back from one goal down against possibly the best team on the planet at the moment.
Against West Bromwich Albion, the signs were there that the blip could be over, but on Tuesday night the previous league match was but a distant memory, and paled into insignificance. So what of Middlesbrough? How do those players after possibly watching that come into this? It was suggested that City simply played as many of their opponents have played against them: contain, stifle and hit back hard and fast. If that was true, then can the Blues learn how to counter that tactic as well? I mention this only because I am expecting this scenario to be played out at The Etihad on Saturday; Middlesbrough are scoring an average of less than a goal a game, so it is highly unlikely they will get many opportunities particularly if they are concentrating on stopping City’s formidable front line.
Am I sounding bullish? Damn straight I am. And with Arsenal and Spurs facing each other the following day, a win will see us pull away from one of these two, or both if that ends in a draw. Now let’s see if Pep can keep this good thing we have going.
*Yes I am