Venue: Riverside Stadium
Date: 30 April 2017
Referee: Kevin Friend
Kick off: 14:05
UK TV: Not on TV
The race begins — a race for the lucrative, season defining top four finish. Pep Guardiola’s blues travel to the North East tomorrow afternoon in a bid to cement a solid conclusion to an otherwise fruitless campaign. A season that has paved the foundations of Guardiola’s philosophy, playing some mesmerising attacking football but often falling at the defensive hurdle. Undoubtedly, the Spaniard has been educated on the difficulties of competitive Premier League football.
But with City bagging 10 wins out of 11 away from home to teams outside the current top six, the odds seem favourable for this Deja Vu encounter. However, Boro’ — although 19th — will be no pushovers. The Riversiders are six points off safety with four games remaining and having picked up their first win in over two months against Sunderland in their last outing, Steve Agnew’s men are looking to build momentum despite being all but down.
In this preview I analyse how both teams could possibly line up, outline key statistics, inform on the whereabouts of decent coverage and predict what we can all expect from City’s second trip of the season to the Riverside Stadium.
Details and where can I watch it?
Kicking off at 14:05, the blues drew the short straw in terms of coverage. With Everton vs Chelsea starting at the exact same time and being deemed more worthy by Sky for televising. As usual, Manchester United got the thumbs up from BT Sport and despite the convenience of showing City straight afterwards, the executive decision has swung the way of Rugby Union’s Bath vs Gloucester.
Radio doesn’t appear to be a viable option either but streaming sites as always hold the solution and Match of the Day 2 will be showing the highlights from 10:30pm.
Kevin Friend has been appointed of this one, with his last Manchester City game being the 4–0 Premier League win at the London Stadium. He also took charge of City’s last league game against Middlesbrough in the 1–1 draw at the Etihad.
Along with Friend, Harry Lennard and Andy Garratt are tasked with the role of assistants while Lee Mason is the fourth official.
No new injury concerns for the Boro’ but a few niggling doubts: Leadbitter (Hamstring), Ayala (ankle), Barragan (knock) and Valdes (Ribs). A decent collection of first team names potentially out there and the blues will be looking to take advantage.
Not much has changed since the derby, but David Silva is looking to be a hopeful inclusion, much to the delight of blues everywhere. The protagonist of City’s attacking play, a potential return of Silva is undoubtedly a huge boost. John Stones is reportedly still recovering from injuries but is well on the road to full match fitness; though unlikely to get the nod this weekend. Ilkay Gundogan is still out and Claudio Bravo, after being stretchered off against United, is suffering from an unknown calf problem.
Middlesbrough, 4–3–3: Guzan, Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, De Roon, Forshaw, Stuani, Negredo, Downing.
Manchester City, 4–1–4–1: Caballero, Navas, Kompany, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Yaya Touré, Sané, Aguero.
Sky Blue Stats and Facts
– City have won three of their last five meetings with Middlesbrough in all competitions (D1, L1) including the FA Cup quarter-final victory.
– City’s previously mentioned achievement of 10 away wins out of 11 to teams outside of the current top six is a new record for the club.
– Sergio Aguero has bagged a goal in each of City’s games against Boro’ this season.
The latter stages of a Premier League season is usually one of difficulty and suffocation, but this season’s remaining league games look to favour the blues. Three home games and two away games await, while our rivals (United, Arsenal, Liverpool) all look to have tricky opponents in line. Whereas, on paper, the blues’ most worthy adversary appears to be either Leicester at home or Watford away on the final day of the campaign.
To build confidence and momentum for this run of games, a win at the Riverside is an absolute necessity if Guardiola wants to put the Champions League starting block in place for next season’s stab at glory. Whether its an early goal leading to an eventual hammering or a nicked three points in the last ten minutes, victory here is the best recovery point to what has been a depleting week.
Middlesbrough 1–3 City (Stuani, Aguero (2), G.Jesus)