Ask the Opposition

Ask the Opposition 61: Middlesbrough (with ‘All About Boro’)

It seems that the likeliest chance of silverware for Manchester City this season is the FA Cup but the Blues face the task of beating Middlesbrough at the Riverside before they can start thinking about a trip to Wembley. Fans and players alike will be keen to put the frustration of Wednesday’s game behind them with a strong performance over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup Quarter-Final.

We spoke to Boro fan Twitter page ‘All About Boro’ to get their views on the upcoming fixture.

Thanks for speaking with us today. Middlesbrough currently sit in 18th place in the Premier League, three points off safety. Can you tell us what has gone right and what has gone wrong for you so far this season?

Well, firstly, what has gone right is we’ve been making ourselves really tough to beat and score goals against. That’s something that our manager has worked on with us a lot since he arrived in October 2013. That is what our promotion was really built on as we just about scraped it. However, this seems as if it is wearing off as we are conceding more and more now.

So there’s that and what has also gone wrong is, as everyone knows, we have really struggled to score goals this season. 19 league goals all season and our last was on 31st January. It really needs to improve and quickly because our run-in is very tough, as we also come up against yourselves once again. Some of our fans blame the manager’s tactics as being the starting point of this terrible rut we are in at the minute, and there’s also an argument saying that the players aren’t giving their all on the pitch so the atmosphere is turning very sour over here.

There’s lots more to it as well, for example, Gaston Ramirez. Since he didn’t get his move away from the club after handing in a transfer request, his attitude at the club has been appalling. Most of us were relieved that he stayed because for the first half of the season, he was the player who would make things happen, easily one of the best in our team. Reason is unknown as to why he handed in a transfer request as he seemed happy and was playing a lot of football. Very ungrateful in my opinion as he would have been playing for Penarol in an Argentinian league and rotting away. His attitude to the fans is really disappointing as well – his shocking performances haven’t helped either. Ever since the whole transfer debacle, every game he has shot off down the tunnel as soon as the full time whistle goes. Every other player stays on the pitch and applauds us fans but not him. I was at Stoke on Saturday, he was substituted off at half-time, he didn’t come back out to watch the second half. I hope he never wears a Boro shirt again.

That’s just a few things that have gone wrong!

Aitor Karanka has come under a lot of pressure recently due to performances in the league. What is your opinion on him?

Well my opinion doesn’t seem very popular to most Boro fans at the minute as the more weeks go on, more people are growing restless and understandably want him gone. I get that, because the football we are playing is horrendous. It would be understandable if he got sacked but I just think back to when he took over, we were something like 5 points off the bottom 3 in the championship. In his first full season we reached the playoff final. Following season we win automatic promotion. So firstly, no one can say he’s a bad manager. This is his first EVER managerial job and look what he’s done. So given what he has achieved with the club so far, surely he deserves a full season to have a go in the Premier League. Many people will say, ‘that’s in the past, it’s about here and now’ but that’s just me, I just think he deserves more respect and a full crack at the Premier League. The rest of the season is his chance to prove everyone wrong. I agree that the football we are playing now will get us relegated, but I have full faith in Aitor and the team that we can get ourselves out of this mess.

Ex-City man Alvaro Negredo (loan) and three-time Champions League winner Victor Valdes were seen as impressive additions to the Boro squad in the summer. How have they fared throughout the season?

It still feels very weird when I look on the pitch and see them in Boro shirts. I still look at Victor Valdes and think in my head, how on earth has he ended up playing for us? But I’m not complaining! He’s been excellent, a few people weren’t too keen on him in the first couple of games and were calling for Dimi Konstantopolous to come back but he’s managed to win them over with very fine displays.

Alvaro Negredo has had a mixed season so far. He scored on the opening day which got us all hyped for the season, and he has scored a few good goals too. On the other hand, most games he has been very isolated and doesn’t really have much support up there with him. Most of us are desperate to see a change in formation where he has a strike partner to work with but Aitor Karanka has played with one up front ever since he got here so I don’t see that changing. Despite that, he’d still be one of the first names on the team sheet for me though. Hopefully he can be the man who saves our season with a few crucial goals.

When the two teams met earlier this season at the Etihad, a last minute equaliser saw both teams walk away with a point. Both teams created chances but City’s attack were simply unable to break down the Boro defence in order to kill the game off. What are your expectations for this game? Do you expect to see something similar?

Honestly? I’m expecting a battering. Our current form is terrible and I just don’t see us getting anything at all. Whilst on one hand it’d mean we could focus on the relegation battle, I can’t help but feel an FA Cup semi-final would give us huge confidence, and may well be the only bit of joy we get for the rest of the season! Nice trip down to Wembley, hopefully better than the last one…

I hope it will be similar to the last game, and there is that bit of hope in me that we can get something because we’ve got a good record against City, but I don’t think it will be similar.

Who would you highlight as the ‘ones to watch’ for City fans?

The only player who looks like they’re going to create anything is Adama Traore. Bullet fast and has been very dangerous attacking wise for us, but it’s never any more than that. Hopefully he can go on one of his crazy runs and score a goal or set someone up, but that has yet to happen. This has to change sooner or later though, surely. I just hope we keep hold of him in the summer but no matter what league we are in, it will be extremely hard.

Finally, please could we have your prediction for the starting line-up and what you think the final score will be?

Victor Valdes, Fabio, Bernardo Espinosa, Ben Gibson, George Friend, Adam Clayton, Grant Leadbitter, Marten De Roon, Adama Traore, Gaston Ramirez (Sadly) and Alvaro Negredo.

I always say I like to be positive, so I’ll keep the hope that we can win but realistically, I think… Boro 0-2 City.

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