PREVIEW: Middlesbrough -v- Wednesday

PREVIEW: Middlesbrough -v- Wednesday

Crisis club Sheffield Wednesday are looking to a drab FA Cup fixture to break their barren run.

Carlos Carvalhal and his team are on the rocks after a terrible streak of four wins, two draws and one defeat has left them stranded in sixth place in the league.

Surely only a victory away at Premier League Middlesbrough can save the Portuguese from the boot.

 

 

 

LAST TIME OUT

 

Last game Opposition Result Shots On target Corners Cards Fouls Possession
WEDNESDAY Wolves (H) D 0-0 9 1 2 3 10 62%
BORO Leicester (H) D 0-0 16 5 4 1 13 49%

 

If these particular statistics are anything to go by, we’re in for a cracker.

-sarcasm ends-

For all the furore that has surrounded Wednesday’s recent performances, for all the bodies shaking with rage as fingers tremble frantically over big red panic buttons, for all the demands that Jordan Rhodes must be signed from Sunday’s opponents immediately or We Can Say Goodnight To The Top Six; Wednesday are doing okay.

That isn’t to say that the performances at Preston and Wolves were good, they were not, and far from it.

And it isn’t to say that improvement is not needed. Wednesday are noticably lacking in front of goal and, at times, in central midfield.

Missing something up front?

The scapegoating has returned. Last season it was Nuhiu, surprisingly.

This year, it’s João and Reach, despite the former playing a handful of games all season.

Adam Reach is not Arjen Robben and so some are inevitably disappointed.

A re-calibration of expectations would do everyone a favour, in my humble opinion.

Maybe I should expect more.

Maybe £4m should get you a player who’ll look like Robben in this division. I don’t know.

In an extremely competitive league, we’re competing well. Do I sound like Carlos yet?

With one or two very selective additions, maybe we can stay in the top six, which would be an achievement, no?

Do we need a player like Rhodes? The obvious answer is yes, of course. Wednesday are creating a high number of chances and not scoring many goals.

Wednesday fans collectively are disillusioned with the playing style which, for all it’s faults, is keeping a promotion-worthy number of clean sheets. We are on course for any eighty points haul for the campaign.

Signing Rhodes – a penalty-box striker – will have the slightest effect on Wednesday’s build up play. Carvalhal will not change his approach.

Separating what we need to address – our conversion of scoring chances – from what we think we need to address – negative football – is important.

However, I’d argue that signing a third forward that has not cut the Premier League mustard (Hooper and Fletcher before him) would not be great business for the club in the long term.

Rhodes (or similar) would not be a cost-effective signing. We are comfortable as we are; we will not guarantee automatic promotion with a multi-million pound forward.

Probably worth signing him just so he doesn’t score on Sunday

So, change must occur in midfield. We’ve signed a player to bolster the flanks and provide a different outlet.

Will further additions come in to the centre while Jones and Abdi, two summer signings, cannot hold down a regular spot?

I digress.

Middlesbrough share a number of likenesses to Wednesday that fans of neither side will be happy with.

Karanka, like Carvalhal, is often criticised for overly defensive tactics that have seen Boro score 17 (League worst) and concede just 22 (only United, Spurs and Chelsea have conceded fewer).

After sparkling last season, Boro have focused on the uninspiring but successful model of staying up: not conceding goals.

There is enough reason think that they can stay up ahead of Swansea, Hull and any one of Watford, Leicester, Sunderland or Palace.

Álvaro Negredo, you feel, can produce just enough moments of individual skill.

Adam Forshaw, Stewart Downing, Adama Traoré and Gastón Ramírez offer enough of a blend of measured passing ability, direct wing play, set-piece quality and magic tricks.

 

 

LAST 5 Wolves (H) Preston (A) Newcastle (A) Rotherham (H) Barnsley (H)
WEDNESDAY D 0-0 D 1-1 W 1-0 W 1-0 W 2-0

 

Leicester (H) Man Utd (A) Burnley (A) Swansea (H) Liverpool (A)
BORO D 0-0 L 1-2 L 0-1 W 3-0 L 0-3

 

 

Wednesday were fortunate to keep a clean sheet against a poor Wolves side.

Joe Mason screwed over from one yard out and Paul Lambert’s side hit the woodwork three times.

The Owls offered very little going forward and the performance was rated, statistically and subjectively, as our worst of the season.

Not a fixture to live long in the memory

Wednesday’s larger-than-average squad has not been utilised to the same degree as during the same period last season.

Sixteen players have started the last three games, compared to nineteen last season.

Boro have struggled to break teams down at The Riverside (where have we heard that before?) and, aside from a three-goal haul against hapless Swansea, have scored six in nine games on their own ground.

Four in ten games at The Riverside have resulted in home defeats by a one-goal margin. As Boro have registered just three wins, the likelihood is that Wednesday will at least force a Hillsborough replay should they score first.

Their ability to equalise (home and away) stands at just 18%, having reduced the arrears twice when giving the lead away eleven times.

The reliance on statistics here can be misleading, both sides are likely to field changed outfits with a limited number of season appearances.

Looking to Middlesbrough’s one other cup tie this season, an away jaunt to Fulham in Round 2 of the EFL Cup, Karanka made six changes to the side that beat Sunderland three days earlier.

Expect more changes from both sides in this one.

 

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS BORO WINS DRAWS
  46 43 17

LAST MEETING

 

28 December 2015, The Riverside Att: 29, 363

Boro 1-0 Wednesday

(Stuani 1′)

Christhian Stuani’s goal on 43 seconds was the difference here as Wednesday fielded a changed outfit during the festive period.

Wednesday gave starts to Wiggins, Semedo, Sougou and Helan while Joe Wildsmith continued to cover for Kieren Westwood.

The Owls came in to the game in the latter stages, with Ayala clearing off the line from Pudil, while Barry Bannan sent a fierce volley straight at Dimi Konstantopolous.

Boro held out to make it seven consecutive league clean sheets; Wednesday stayed 7th.

 

 

CARVALHAL’S COHORTS

 

Expect changes.

Maybe not changes to the degree we saw at Cambridge in the League Cup, but a selection of senior Development Squad players could be involved.

George Hirst could get his first extended run in a game.

Those players who played three games in eight days will likely be rested. As a result, Adam Reach will probably miss out against his former employers.

 

DAWSON

PALMER

LEES

SASSO

PUDIL

BANNAN

ABDI

JONES

MCMANAMAN

NUHIU

JOAO

 

 

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

 

BET Wednesday WIN Boro WIN DRAW BTTS – no 0-0 FTS
BEST ODDS 15/4 10/11 5/2 4/5 7/1
BOOKIES Betway

 

HUGH’S VERDICT:

 

I fancy Wednesday to do well here.

Wednesday will need someone with a spark

‘What does “well” mean?’ I hear you ask.

To go full circle on this preview and return to exaggerations, I’m positive that only a two or three goal win-to-nil will satisfy some.

In all seriousness, a changed Wednesday outfit can win at The Riverside. Boro will make more changes than Wednesday, especially at the back.

Owing to injury, fatigue, and a simple lack of options, Tom Lees and two of our regular full-backs will start.

In midfield, Callum McManaman will continue to gain match fitness. Can he provide the creative spark we need on the flanks?

Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas João both have points to prove up front but, in all honesty, I won’t be backing them as first goal scorers.

Expect a drab, quiet first half that, if Wednesday make it through without conceding, could create some pressure on Boro in a similar fashion to our most recent visit to the North East.

VERDICT: 0-1 – A forgotten man of the Wednesday squad to come on a score the winner. Or, whisper it, could Hirst bag his first?

Hugh
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @hugh_wragg


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