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Middlesbrough v. Arsenal


The Riverside Stadium



On Sky

After having most of the squad 'injured' for the match against F.C. Porto midweek, a completely different Arsenal team will take the field early Saturday afternoon, and they will be looking for redemption for the defeat at the hands of Boro last year at the Riverside.

Middlesbrough have been sputtering as of late, with only one win in their last five matches. As is the case with Arsenal, Boro have not reached their best form and inconsistency in their performances can be blamed for only sitting in twelfth place. This campaign, especially against Liverpool and Tottenham, Boro have looked like a team that could surely challenge for a UEFA cup spot, but a lack of form against teams like Sunderland and West Brom have cost them dearly.

Vital Quotes:

Arsene talked about the importance of every game, before this one. 'The level of demands are higher from everywhere.

'People always want top, top quality with top results, but on the other hand you have better teams in the Premier League than ever and that is why it is difficult for everybody.

'You cannot have on one side the best Premier League in the world and on the other side have teams just to turn up and think you will win the game. You will have surprises.'

He went on to say: 'I believe we have come back into some consistency - we have beaten Chelsea and Wigan, also (Dynamo) Kiev, and that the Porto result was a special game.

'When you get to a position where you can protect your Premier League game a bit, then you do it.

'In this case it was very important and was why we made that choice (against Porto). Hopefully it will pay off.'

Gareth Southgate is looking for a another preformance like last year from his team. 'I'm glad that they beat Chelsea and Manchester United because that reminds people of what a good team they are capable of being,' Southgate told Sky Sports News.

'There is a danger, not as a team but maybe outside the dressing room, of thinking that it is a game you should win and that it will be a walk over.

'They are a top side. To beat the top sides you have got to work unbelievably hard, play well and have a little bit of the rub of the green.

'They are a team I respect greatly. The manager is one of the best in the world and in recent weeks they have shown what they are capable of doing.

'Having said that, last season they came here and were unbeaten and we managed to get a win so we hope to do the same again.'

Middlesbrough Team News:

Fortunately for Arsenal, David Wheater is suspended for the match, as he picked up a red in Boro's last match, a heart breaker for Boro fans against Hull. Though Robert Huth and Chris Riggot could return for Southgates side. Mido, Andrew Taylor, and Gary O'Neil will be out for Boro.

Sadly, for both teams, Justin Hoyte is a major doubt. We all know the lad and how he bleed his heart out for Arsenal. I'm sure he would of done anything in the world to play in this one. Both sets of supporters will wish he was on the field.

Player to watch: Tuncay Sanli

After watching Tuncay play a pivotal role in Turkeys success in Euro 2008, I am convinced in his quality. Southgate laughed off an 8 million pound offer from Chelsea this week for the Turkish international, but come January he will have to fight hard to keep him at the Riverside. Back to this match, Tuncay has recently been named Vital Boro's player of the season so far, and his creative touch will keep Arsenal defenders on their heels all afternoon.

Arsenal Team News:

Arsenal have many players returning for this game, which leads me to believe a vast majority of them were not actually injured midweek. First off, influential skipper, Cesc Fabregas, will once again lead Arsenal out of the tunnel. Also Clichy, Sagna, van Persie, and Adebayor will return to the squad. Though, Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure will not travel.

Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Denilson, Song, Cesc, Diaby, van Persie, Adebayor

Player to watch: Manuel Almunia

Almunia started off the season in blistering form, but ever since the Spurs game he has basically been in a downward spiral. Unfortuantely for the Spaniard, he was very close to convincing most Arsenal fans that he merits a long term place between the sticks, but all that has since gone up in flames.

Away from home this campaign, Arsenal have looked sketchy defensively and Almunia will surely be called on to keep Arsenal in the match tomorrow.

Match Facts & Stats

Home and away

League (inc PL): Middlesbrough 29 wins, Arsenal 57, Draws 30

Prem: Middlesbrough 5 wins, Arsenal 15, Draws 6

at Middlesbrough only

League (inc PL): Middlesbrough 23 wins, Arsenal 21, Draws 14

Prem: Middlesbrough 4 wins, Arsenal 8, Draws 1

Three of the last four games between Middlesbrough and Arsenal were 1-1 draws.

Denilson will be making his 50th start for Arsenal.

Ref Watch:

For once, Arsenal get one of the better referees in the league. Peter Walton will be the head official for the encounter. So far this season he has refereed nine Barclay's Premier League matches, handing out 27 yellow cards and only one red, giving him a 3.27 card per game average.

Match Prediction:

With the boost the team will get, with all the quality starters returning I can see Arsenal actually pulling away with this road game, and winning by a two goal margin. I will say a 3-1 Arsenal win, but beware I am usually wrong!

Next Fixtures:

Don't you just hate to love the festive Premier League season.

21/12 (Sun)- Liverpool (H)- Premier League

26/12 (Fri)- Aston Villa (A)- Premier League

28/12 (Sun)- Portsmouth (H)- Premier League

Writer:Brice Coffer
Date:Friday December 12 2008
Time: 9:42PM


Tricky fixture,Middlesbrough recently have become a difficult team for Arsenal to beat but seem to dash out 3 pts to all our rivals.
12/12/2008 23:05:00
What a team goal that would of been
13/12/2008 13:00:00
Its going to be a long season. Shame since liverpool drew. We could of been 6 points behind having to play them. Oh well
13/12/2008 17:25:00
Another crap performance from a bunch over rated, over paid no hearters.
13/12/2008 20:52:00
Did anyone else feel embarrassed to watch us being outplayed in several patches by a thoroughly poor Boro team? I am now starting to cringe when I watch us play and have not enjoyed a single match this season bar the Porto game at home.
13/12/2008 20:56:00
We looked good for 20 minutes. No width, no ideas.
13/12/2008 21:22:00
What about the Blackburn game, LG? I wasnt embarrassed, tbh, we were quite good in patches, and not consistently. There was one creative move which involved some good one touch football, I think RvP fired wide from that. Boro werent poor, their plan was good and mirrored that of last season. Put pressure on Arsenal when we had the ball, hit us with pace (Tuncay & Aliadiere are quick) and on the counter. They played some decent stuff, so lets not take away anything from Boro.
14/12/2008 04:12:00
So they fooled us with the same plan twice Prits?? What is the old saying about "fool me once your fault, fool me twice, my fault??"
15/12/2008 19:51:00
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