Football – England – Championship
Saturday 12th January 2013 – Kickoff: 1500hrs
This fixture throws up a mouth-watering clash between two clubs currently vying for play-off places with hosts and fourth placed Middlesbrough taking on sixth placed Watford at The Riverside on Saturday afternoon.
Despite losing against Leeds United and Derby County in recent weeks, these were away but at home Middlesbrough have been in scintillating form and have won their last four matches on the trot on home soil; 3-0 v Huddersfield Town, 2-0 v Wolves, 1-0 v Blackburn Rovers and 4-2 v Blackpool. They’ve made the Riverside a very hard place for teams to go and get points and this is reflected in their overall home record of 10-1-2 28/14.
Manager Tony Mowbray knows that his side stand a very good chance of claiming at least a play-off spot this season and this was the pre-season requirement, so his team are on track at the moment. Boro have not failed to score a goal in any of their home matches so far and have kept five clean sheets at the back as well.
Goal threats come in the shape of Scott McDonald (9 goals, 4 assists), Lukas Jutkiewicz (8 goals, 4 assists), along with former West Brom striker Ishmael Miller (5 goals) and former Sunderland midfielder Grant Leadbitter (7 assists) providing the spark in the middle.
Visitors Watford have faltered slightly in recent weeks following their purple-patch of seven matches without defeat, they’ve now lost at home to Hull City 1-2 and Charlton Athletic 3-4 and despite beating Nottingham Forest and Brighton, the Hornets have lost ground on the rest of the play-off pack and find themselves seven points adrift of today’s opponents.
With Millwall, Leeds United, Brighton and Derby County all breathing down their necks, manager Gianfranco Zola will be keen to get at least a point at Boro today, but it won’t be easy. Watford are on a five match unbeaten run away from home with wins over Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton along with points at Blackpool and Burnley, but none of these teams are currently in the top six.
Watford did beat Crystal Palace in their first away match of the season but then subsequently lost at Cardiff City a few weeks later. They’ve yet to play the rest of the top six, but it’ll be interesting to see how they fare at fourth placed Middlesbrough today.
Watford’s away record stands at 6-2-4 27/21 and they are the highest goalscorers on the road in the division to date. Players to watch out for are Troy Deeney (10 goals, 3 assists) and Matej Vydra (12 goals, 3 assists) along with creativity from Yeates and Forestieri, but I feel there could be some cracks starting to appear particularly in defence where Watford have kept just one clean sheet in their last nineteen away matches.
It’s very much a case of defence versus attack in this one, but with home advantage and their ability to not only score goals at home but also keep clean sheets, I’ll give Middlesbrough the nod in this match to perhaps win by a single goal margin; 2-1 to Boro but give them the quarter ball in case.
Pick: Middlesbrough AH-0.25 @ 1.83 Pinnacle