Middlesbrough of the Road
Date: Wednesday 3rd May 2006So with the season drawing to a close, here come our friends from Smoggieville for a midweek visit. Still buoyed by their Uefa Cup exploits last week, Boro' have all but given up on the league, using it as preparation for when they encounter Sevilla later this month. The Whites however are still in the midst of their most important games of the season, as they attempt to beat off the challenge of Newcastle for the Intertoto Cup place and entry into Europe. Of course the selling point of this re-arranged fixture would be the two managers, both hoping to receive a call from Soho Square in the near future. As has been discussed to great length, Big Sam has been far from subtle about his desire to manage England, positively pleading for a chance to be in charge of the country's elite. Mclaren on the other hand is now rumoured to be the frontrunner for the position, despite having a more tight-lipped attitude, and after serving as Svenís number two, he must feel a step up is within his smug faced grasp. Naturally the first game that springs to mind when you think of Boro' v Bolton is our own ill fated Carling Cup campaign of 2003, which saw Mike Riley, and the right hand of Ugo Ehiogu, help fire the Teesiders to their first piece of silverware in the club's history. Despite the passage of time, the scars still remain from that day in Cardiff, and as such this has become something of a grudge match, which both sets of fans will be desperate to win. Whether the two teams will show that much desire is open to question, with Boro' expected to field a side of youth players, and having played four times in a week, youíd expect this one to be a mere formality for a Bolton side who are rejuvenated after impressive displays against Charlton and Spurs. But things are never easy for the Wanderers, who have a nasty habit of slipping up in games they ought to win, having failed to finish off the likes of Sunderland, Aston Villa and Pompey in key games this season. Without a goal in their last three Premiership outings, Boroís expensive frontline will be expected to do the business again on Wednesday, similarly to when the two sides met at the Riverside. But with Viduka and Hasslebaink nursing slight injuries, itíll be down to Cup hero and professional waste of space Massimo Maccarone to get the goals alongside Yakubu. Bolton on the other hand will be lining up with the formidable Henrik Pedersen at left back, as Ricardo Gardner recovers from a knee injury. Kevin Nolan is also expected to return to the subs bench, as Sam Allardyce has a near full strength team to pick from, Gardner, Fadiga and the clinically insane Diouf the only definite absentees. My prediction is a cold night of midweek football with Bolton snatching all three points. Boro' are sentenced to mid table mediocrity before heartbreak in Eindhoven. Who needs the Uefa Cup? After all, we still have the honour of capturing the prestigious Asia Plate thingy, lest we forget. Címon you Whites, letís make sure the Reebok is rocking for this one.