This will be the 47th competitive fixture between Middlesbrough and Brighton Hove Albion and the 4th FA Cup fixture between both sides.
The last time these teams met in the FA Cup was in 1906 which took 3 attempts to find a winner. Boro finally won the FA Cup Second Round replays at Bramall Lane with the household name Alfred Common scoring a Hat-trick in front of 11,500 to put Boro through.
Boro come into the game with Brighton following a 3-0 win over QPR whilst Brighton are currently struggling in the Premier League following a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea.
- Boro have been drawn at home for the seventh successive fixture, with the north-east side winning four of the last six (L2).
- Brighton have won just two of their last eight FA Cup away games (D1 L5), losing each of the last two, including at this stage last season to non-league Lincoln.
- Brighton have failed to score in nine of their last 13 competitive matches (six goals overall).
Head-to-head record: Middlesbrough wins: 34, Draws: 13, Brighton wins: 9. Highest Boro win: 9-0 (1956), Highest Brighton win: 3-0 (1984)
It’s crazy what a win can do, the win at QPR gives Boro fans optimism once again on the push for promotion. Last Saturday, the win was exactly what everyone at the club needed after the controversial defeat to Fulham.
The game last Saturday had many positives, a clean sheet, three goals and Adama Traore scoring his first goal in English football.
Traore has been one of the most frustrating yet brilliant footballers I have ever seen and probably will ever see in a Boro shirt. However, under the guidance of Tony Pulis, he can become a top player in years to come.
It’s only a matter of time before he starts to get suiters once again but in my opinion, he is probably better off staying at Middlesbrough for another season or so to really develop his game.
If Adama goes to a big club now it may stutter his development and we’ve seen it so many times in the past with young players moving to big clubs too early, such as Jack Rodwell with Man City and Theo Walcott to Arsenal just to name a couple.
Of course, Jack Rodwell is considered poor now, but a few seasons ago he was tipped to be England’s brightest players and his move to City from Everton killed his development.
In terms of the game, Saturday will be a big test for Tony Pulis’s side. Brighton will be using the infamous promotion clash of 2016 as motivation to try and beat Boro for the first time in 5 years.
A lot has happened since we last played Brighton with both teams going in different directions. This is a great opportunity for Boro to put one over on Brighton and show the Premier League we could be on our way back.
Tony Pulis is set to name a strong team on Saturday and could be tempted to name the same team which beat Queens Park Rangers 3-0 last week.
But with Boro playing Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday, Pulis may look to bring Adam Clayton, Martin Braithwaite and Cyrus Christie back into the line up for Jonny Howson, Ryan Shotton and Patrick Bamford.
Martin Braithwaite is a name that has been making the rounds in the press this week with reported interest from Bordeaux. The Dane has been a bright spark in Boro’s campaign this season and is the club’s second top scorer. He’ll be looking to keep up his form ahead of the World Cup this summer.
As far as injuries go, Boro have a clean bill of health for the visit of the Seagulls.
Record signing Jurgen Locadia is still recovering from a hamstring injury following his recent move from PSV. The 24-year-old scored an impressive 62 goals in 160 games for the Dutch side including a goal on his debut in 2011.
Glenn Murray was a big doubt for Saturday’s game after being arrested on Tuesday night on the suspicion of tax fraud. However, Chris Hughton has surprisingly named Murray in his squad for Saturday.
Hughton added in his press conference he is tempted to rotate his squad on Saturday as the Seagulls have a huge relegation clash with Southampton on Wednesday. The rotation of the squad may see the likes of Izzy Brown, Sam Baldock and Jose Izquierdo starting.
Dale Stephens is expected to start – the midfielder was sent off for his miss-timed challenge on Gaston Ramirez in the promotion decider in 2016 and is looking to “banish the bad memories” against the Boro.
Players to Watch: Pascal Groß, Anthony Knockaert and Davy Pröpper.
I expect Chris Hughton to set Brighton up in the 4-4-1-1 formation with Antony Knockhaert and Solly March providing the width for the Seagulls.
Hughton likes his teams to attack with the wingers whilst using the long ball to switch the play. The Seagulls have predominately attacked down the left-hand side as their wing backs look to give them support.
However, the big switch for Knockaert to cut in is still a huge threat for Boro to consider. The Frenchman has been instrumental to Brighton following his move from Leicester. To counter Knockaert, it’s simply putting him on his weaker foot. The 26-year-old has been ‘found out’ this season, only scoring two goals this term.
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To help counter Brighton’s style Boro must stay disciplined if they try to keep possession and counter on the break. Under Pulis, Boro have seen less of the ball but seem to be in more control of the game.
A huge misconception in football is the term “possession”. If a team has a lot of the ball it does not necessarily mean they are in control of the game. A recent example of this was Swansea against Liverpool mid-week. Swansea set up to have less of the ball and make it compact enough to slow Liverpool down with the through ball, limiting Liverpool to chances.
It’s not how much of the ball you have, it’s what you do with it that counts.
Boro will be looking towards set-pieces to score against Brighton. The Seagulls have conceded 13 headed goals from set plays, more than anyone else in the Premier League this season.
Furthermore, due to their style of play, Brighton allow themselves to be cut open with through balls between the centre-backs and the wingbacks on counter attacks. This could see Adama Traore having some extra space on the wing which may be devastating for the Brighton defence.
Finally, I expect Pulis to keep Boro In the same shape of the 4-2-3-1 as we look to get our home form back on track.
My Preferred XI (4-2-3-1)
Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter, Howson, Downing, Braithwaite, Traore, Assombalonga.
Same again! Apart from Braithwaite for Bamford…
Pulis has come in and established a spine to the team – and If I was him I’d look to keep things the same against Brighton. The Boro squad will be used to playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday Tuesday hence why I’ve decided to keep a similar team even with the game with Sheffield Wednesday coming up.
The reason for the change, I prefer Braithwaite to Bamford on the wings. In my opinion, Patrick is a centre-forward not an attacking midfielder/winger.
He does possess the skills to play in an attacking role with his ability to pick out a pass, but in my opinion, he makes a bigger impact upfront due to his clinical finishing.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)
Randolph, Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Friend. Leadbitter, Clayton, Braithwaite, Downing, Traore, Gestede.
Although I would like the team to stay the same, I can see Pulis making changes to keep his team fresh for the league. I can see Christie, Clayton, Braithwaite and Gestede coming in for Assombalonga, Shotton, Howson and Bamford.
I think Gestede is the most surprising selection following his poor display against Fulham but I can see Pulis starting the Benin international due to his height and strength in the box, and because of Brighton’s inability to defend set plays.
FA Cup fourth round is looking for an upset and I hope Boro can be one of them. I expect this to be an entertaining game with both teams desperate to pick up a win for morale purposes.
Boro 2-1 Brighton