Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough have picked up just a point from the last 4 games in the Premier League and find themselves in the drop zone after their loss to Stoke City in the previous round of the domestic league. They have their own problems trying to stay safe but they will have to turn their attention to the FA Cup quarterfinal when they welcome Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to the Riverside this weekend.
Boro beat Oxford in an exciting game in the previous round to set up this all-Premier League clash and Karanka, the manager of the home side, is expected to go with his strongest side to try and give City a scare. Guardiola’s side were held to a draw by the Potters earlier in the week but they have been in decent form and will be favorites for this tie.
Aitor Karanka could be without 3 center backs for this game with the likes of Calum Chambers, Daniel Ayala and George Friend all nursing injuries. Neither of the players are ruled out completely but Karanka is not expected to take a chance unless they are completely fit.
Predicted Middlesborough lineup
Victor Valdes (GK):
The former Barcelona man is the undisputed number 1 at the club and he should keep his place in the side for this crunch game.
The Brazilian defender has not been used regularly this season but with injuries to key players, he might get his chance to start this game at right-back.
Ben Gibson (CB):
The first choice centre back for Karanka, Gibson has been excellent this season for his side but he will have his work cut out against one of the most exciting sides in the competition.
Antonio Barragan (CB):
Not the first choice anymore at the club, Barragan will get his chance to get back into the first team with a decent performance against Manchester City in this game.
George Friend (LB):
Though not declared completely fit yet, Friend is expected to be back in action by the weekend and he should keep his place in the side at left-back for this crunch tie.
Stewart Downing (CM):
Though decent, Downing has not been consistent for Middlesbrough recently and he will have to be at his best for his side to take anything from this game.
Adam Clayton (CM):
The first choice midfielder for Karanka, Clayton is an impact player for the side in the middle of the park and he should play just in front of the back 4 for Middlesbrough this weekend.
Marten de Roon (CM):
Though he was dropped from the side in the last few games, De Roon is a quality player and Karanka should unleash him for his knockout tie against the Citizens.
Adama Traore (LW):
One of the most exciting players at the club this season, Traore is expected to be a constant problem for Manchester City as he will try to stretch the backline and make use of the width on the pitch, playing on the flank.
Viktor Fischer (RW):
One of the most in-form players for Boro at the moment, Fischer should surely start this game for his side to have their best chance of progression in the FA Cup.
Rudy Gestede (ST):
Manchester City have been weak against balls in the air and Karanka should attack that weakness and use Gestede to intimidate the Manchester City defenders at the weekend.