Match Preview: Middlesbrough vs Sheffield Wednesday

This will be the 109th competitive fixture between Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday.

Boro lay 8th in the Championship table following the domestic victory over QPR 10 days ago whilst Sheffield Wednesday are in 17th place following a home draw against Cardiff City.

The Owls beat Reading 3-1 in the FA Cup on Saturday with goals from George Boyd and Atdhe Nuhiu (2) helping them into the 5th round.

 Stats

  •  Middlesbrough have won each of their four matches against Sheffield Wednesday in all competitions.
  • The Owls have lost eight of their last 10 away visits to Middlesbrough in all competitions (W1 D1), with their last win coming in August 2014 in the Championship.
  • Middlesbrough haven’t lost three consecutive home league matches outside of the top-flight since September 2009.
  • Tony Pulis hasn’t faced Sheffield Wednesday since March 2008 – his Stoke side drew 1-1 at Hillsborough in a Championship fixture.
  • Middlesbrough’s failure to score in Pulis’ first two home league games mean that Pulis has now seen his sides fail to score in eight of his last 12 home league games as a manager (P12 W1 D3 L8).
  • Sheffield Wednesday have never drawn three consecutive away games goalless in all competitions in their entire history.

Head-to-Head record: Middlesbrough wins: 45, Draws 17, Sheffield Wednesday wins 46, Highest Boro win: 8-0 (1974), Highest Owls win 6-1 (1895)

Pre-Match Thoughts

I’m glad we are out of the FA Cup. There I said it.

Although Saturday’s defeat to Brighton was undeserving and unfortunate, the FA Cup felt like a big distraction from our domestic goals this season and I thought it wasn’t something we needed.

The FA Cup is an amazing competition and one of my favourites to watch but it’s something we don’t need right now.

Embed from Getty Images

However, seeing Boro on a cup run is a beautiful thing, as I turn 23 today I reflected on what I’ve seen over the years of following the club. I’ve seen Boro lift a trophy at the Millennium Stadium, followed them on those European nights, watched many semi-finals, a couple of promotions, seen some phenomenal players such as Juninho, Mendieta, George Boateng, JFH, Mark Viduka, Paul Ince, Hamilton Ricard (Yes, seriously) and Gareth Southgate just to name a few. We’ve seen relegations and the Gordon Strachan era but less said about them, the better.

The point is we’ve been spoilt over the years and we want those good times back, we need to do it as quickly as we can because we know how hard the Championship can be.

Every game until the end of the season is massive if we want to go up this season. I think we have the right man in Tony Pulis to take us up, but it’s just a matter of time until we see it happen.

Boro Predictions

Tony Pulis is set to be without his top goalscorer (since his arrival) on Tuesday night with Dani Ayala ruled out with an ankle injury.

The defender was forced off early during their FA Cup defeat by Brighton following an off the ball incident on Saturday.

Embed from Getty Images

Rudy Gestede is set to return to the squad following his injury in training last week. Rudy was a late exclusion from the squad but is hoping to be on the bench.

Boro are set to make further changes to the squad which lost to Brighton in the FA Cup with Ashley Fletcher, Adam Clayton and Patrick Bamford expected to be named onto the bench.

Sheffield Wednesday Predictions

The new Sheffield Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay is set to give George Boyd make his first league start for Sheffield Wednesday since August after recovering from injury. The midfielder scored for the Owls in their FA Cup win over Reading on Friday.

Joining Boyd in the starting line up could be Kosovo international Atdhe Nuhiu. The 6ft 4 Striker has scored 3 in 3 in the FA Cup and could be deemed undroppable for Tuesday’s game at the Riverside.

Embed from Getty Images

The Owls are still without Keiren Westwood, Barry Bannan and Tom Lees due to injury.

Tuesday’s fixture will see Boro come up against three former players, Adam Reach, Jacob Butterfield and Jordan Rhodes. Reach has been the standout player in a poor campaign for The Owls, netting 4 goals and 6 assists.

Players to Watch: Atdhe Nuhiu, Adam Reach and Frederico Venâncio.

Tactics

Under Carlos Carvahal Sheffield Wednesday loved to set up in the 4-4-2 or the 4-2-3-1 – but new boss Jos Luhukay opted for a 3-5-2 against promotion chasing Cardiff City. The five in midfield saw wingers Ross Wallace and Adam Reach play a more central role as they tried to play a compact and direct game.

The 3-5-2 is a formation I can see Jos Luhukay setting the Owls up on Tuesday night to try and cope with Boro’s more direct approach. If the five  in midfield is opted it’s likely to see George Boyd and Liam Palmer on the wings providing the width.

Throughout the season, Wednesday have tried to play a high line defensively and look to spread the ball out wide onto the left wing for Reach to cross into the box for the striker.

Embed from Getty Images

To help counter Sheffield Wednesday style of play Boro, we may have to allow Sheffield Wednesday to have the ball for spells in order to counter them effectively. Due to their high line, they are vulnerable to through balls and the ball over the top which can see the likes of Adama and Braithwaite running onto the ball.

Furthermore, Wednesday are poor at set pieces and Boro were able to manipulate that at Hillsborough. It could be a game where it is decided on set-pieces and Boro indeed have the upper hand due to the physicality of the team and the style in which we play now.

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.

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)

Randolph, Shotton, Fry, Gibson, Friend. Leadbitter, Howson, Braithwaite, Downing, Adama Traore, Assombalonga.

I would normally predict my starting eleven and compare to the predicted eleven by Tony Pulis. But I can see the Boro manager and I being on the same wavelength on Tuesday night.

The change in defence is enforced and Christie being out of favour at present I can see Dael Fry coming into centre back.

It’s a shame seeing Christie on the bench, he was a standout player earlier in the campaign and I would like to see him get a second chance under Tony Pulis as he offers something different going forward. However, Shotton has played well since Pulis’s arrival which does indeed make things difficult.

Embed from Getty Images

In midfield it would be no surprise to see captain Grant Leadbitter back in the team replacing Adam Clayton. Although Clayton’s performance on Saturday was quite good I can see him dropping to the bench for the rested captain.

In attack, Downing for Bamford is the most likely change to happen. Bamford was not at the races on Saturday which will force Pulis’s hand. Downing coming back into the squad is a big positive. The academy graduate, now veteran, has been sublime this season and Boro have been poor without him.

Up front, I can see Britt getting the nod over Ashley Fletcher and Rudy Gestede. Boro’s top scorer has been quiet since the arrival of the new manager and he will be looking to finally impress him and try to keep his place in the team.

Score Prediction

It’s expected to be a tough game for both teams on Tuesday as they both look for points. Boro need to start fast and get the early goal to dictate the play and force Sheffield Wednesday to make mistakes. If we get the first goal, I can see Boro kicking on and taking the game by the scruff of the neck

Boro 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *