Tuesday 9th 2016 Kickoff: 1945hrs
MK Dons v Middlesbrough
Football – England – Championship
Although this clash sees second-top Middlesbrough travel to fourth-bottom MK Dons, the competitive nature of the Championship dictates that this is anything but a foregone conclusion. Neither team have been in great form lately so three points here would be vital for their receptive causes.
This is MK Dons first season playing at this level so it was always going to be something of a fact-finding mission for manager Karl Robinson and his players, especially when they are competing against clubs such as Tuesday’s opponents who simply have a vastly superior budget at their disposal. Nevertheless, the Dons have acquitted themselves relatively well as they bid to achieve their goal of surviving for a second season in the Championship. If they are to manage that then their form thus far would dictate that the home matches will be crucial. Of their 27 points, 19 of them have come at home whilst managing just one win in their travels. It could be argued that they will have to find a way to pick up more wins and points on the road if they are to survive, but building on – and maintaining – the strength of their home form is equally important, which means even games against the top teams have to be targeted.
The last month or so has easily been Middlesbrough’s worst period of the season and it has seen them being relieved of top spot in the Championship, albeit on goals difference and with at least one game in hand over the teams around them. With respect to that, a win on Tuesday would see them return to the top but Aitor Karanka has to find a way to restore confidence and get his team back on the winning trail. ‘Boro have picked up just one point in their last three games and managed only one win in their last five games in all competitions. There is certainly no need to panic in their current situation, but last year’s memory of losing in the play-off final will still resonate and automatic promotion is without doubt their sole objective. One of the most notable aspects of their game that has to improve is find a way to score more goals – failing to score more than one goal in their last five attempts.
It’s not just one win in MK Dons last six league games, a run which has seen them slip back towards the bottom three. Like their next opponents, the Dons have struggled for goals of late, and are actually the league’s lowest scorers, managing only 23 goals in their 29 league games. It will be a concern for Robinson, particularly as the quality of their play is very good until the final decision in and around the box. For any team who struggle to score goals, it places so much importance on the defence to be consistently good and whilst they have conceded the fewest of any of the bottom six, it’s not been enough to secure more wins of late.
With the financial sums on offer in next year’s Premier League rocketing to astronomical levels, Middlesbrough have thrown all they can at ensuring they are in the top-flight come August. Following the high-profile arrivals of Stewart Downing and Christian Stuani, amongst others, during the summer, the club’s pursuit of Jordan Rhodes finally came to a satisfactory conclusion last month as the striker arrived at the Riverside in the hope that his proven goalscoring record will lead them to the Premier League. It wasn’t the dream debut for him on Saturday as he came off the bench to help his new team to a point over his previous employers.
MK Dons v Middlesbrough Betting Tips
A win for either team will obviously be of huge help as the home team look to increase the gap between themselves and the bottom three whilst ‘Boro look to return to the top of the table. However, with 16 games left to play for both these clubs after this game, there is an awful lot of football left to play and it’s likely both issues will go right to the final games.
MK Dons have won four of their last seven league games at home, including a couple of impressive victories over Reading and Sheffield Wednesday. They will have to reach that level and surpass it if they are to beat arguably the best team in this league. Middlesbrough may also be happy that they are playing away as they have won four of their last five on the road – keeping a clean sheet in all four of them. They did lose on their most recent away fixture, however.
Everything points to this game being a tight affair as neither side are in great form overall and have particularly struggled for goals of late. It’s also a meeting of the worst attack in the league and the best defence in the league, and I believe that will be the crucial factor. Although MK Dons are better at home, I think the away defence will stifle their attack and with the addition of Rhodes at the other end, should have enough to sneak one and take all three points.
Middlesbrough EVENS @ Bet365