Football – England – Championship
Wednesday 26th December 2012 – Kickoff: 1500hrs
Fourth placed Middlesbrough entertain struggling Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day at the Riverside as the hosts look to close the gap on the top two teams Cardiff City and surprise promotion candidates Hull City.
Middlesbrough have put in some up-and-down performances recently with defeats at Birmingham City and Leeds United whilst winning matches against Huddersfield Town, Peterborough United and Wolves. But in their defence, the losses at Birmingham and Leeds were both away and Boro’s home form has been a lot more dependable.
Middlesbrough’s home record stands at 8-1-12 23/12 with only Cardiff City and Crystal Palace (1 game each) losing fewer matches at home in the Championship. Aside from a surprise 1-3 reverse to Bristol City at the end of last month, Boro have brought home five wins and a draw during the last seven matches with wins over Hull City 2-0, Bolton 2-1, Sheffield Wednesday 3-1, Huddersfield 3-0 and Wolves 2-0 along with a 2-2 draw with Derby County.
Middlesbrough’s danger men are leading scorer Scott McDonald (8 goals, 3 assists) and Lukas Jutkiewicz (6 goals, 3 assists) along with Emnes (4 goals) while creativity has been largely supplied by Leadbitter (6 assists).
Onto Blackburn Rovers now and the appointment of Henning Berg quite frankly has done nothing to lift Blackburn out of it’s present sorry state; the Venkys owners may be tempted to wield the axe yet again during the Christmas holiday period if results don’t improve dramatically and Berg won’t have endeared himself to them on the back of his criticism of them on Norwegian tv prior to taking the Rovers hot seat.
Rovers’ away record stands at 2-7-2 18/17 and they have earned just one point from the last fifteen on offer which was thanks to a point at Burnley in a 1-1 draw. Aside from that match, they’ve lost the other four straight with defeats against Millwall, Bolton, Cardiff City and Lancashire rivals Blackpool. They did beat Peterborough 4-1 in mid-November but the Rovers fans have had little to cheer about and the silence from the terraces is ominously deafening.
Blackburn’s obvious strike weapon is striker Jordon Rhodes (11 goals) but he hasn’t scored in his last two matches and Blackburn may have difficulty in retaining his services if results don’t improve. Nuno Gomes (4 goals) and creative midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen (4 assists) are the other dangers but neither featured at Blackpool in Rovers’ last match.
Despite some indifferent results of late, Middlesbrough are strong at home and they should have too much for an out-of-sorts Blackburn Rovers at the Riverside today; I’ll back Boro giving away the quarter ball but they should win this one 2-1.
Pick: Middlesbrough AH-0.25 @ 1.70 Pinnacle