Cup Clash Is Bigger For Boro
TONIGHT'S CUP clash is a far bigger game for Boro than for West Brom. The Baggies still have promotion to aim at if it all goes Lee Dong for them at the Hawthorns but if Boro slip up we are looking at a hard slog up a very steep slope towards a far from certain seventh spot.
The FA Cup can keep Gareth Southgate's debut season crackling with hope and nurture infant hopes of a quick-fire dream return to Europe. If we can polish off West Brom then we are just 180 minutes away from Wembley. Sorry, this is Boro, 240 minutes. Plus pennas.
But Boro can take no chances. We can't afford to take the complacent approach we did against Notts County, Hull and Bristol City and rest key players because of big league games on the horizon. We must go in all guns blazing and with a ruthless desire to win the game.
Tomy Mowbray has already swung the game mentally Boro's way. He has made the honest and hard-nosed assessment that for West Brom the greatest chance of glory lies in a full strength team beating resurgent Sunderland in the Championship on Saturday. To that end he will rest some of the players who have featured in 15 games in the past eight weeks. He said:
"I think Saturday has got to come into play. We would love to win the FA Cup but I bet we are pretty long odds with the bookies to win it. It's only right we have one eye on Saturday's game against Sunderland because it's a big, big game against a team that is just on our shirt tails."We are mindful of two big games this week both of which we would like to win. But the three points on Saturday would be the much more welcome result than beating Middlesbrough."It's about utilising the squad. We might keep the likes of Cater, Gera and Ellington for Saturday and wring out the last bits of energy from the others tonight."You've got to be realistic about what chances you have got of winning the FA Cup. I can't see a time again when the likes of Coventry and Wimbledon could do it. I don't know what odds we are - I'm sure they would be long."I'm sure the fans around the world would rather see us back in the Premier League rather than missing out and talking about a great cup run to the semi-finals.
That seems to me that he has mentally prepared his players to go out there tonight with subliminal message that the game is the least important one they will play this week, that victory will bring with it a futile fixture headache and a distraction that can undermine their over-riding objective of a return to the Premiership. Good work agent Mowbray.
But we must take advantage of the slight edge that may give us. We can't put out a reshuffled team and resting trump cards like Viduka and Woodgate because we have one eye on Newcastle. This is a massive game, let's get it won and then take players off if needed.
It will be better to go to Newcastle with our potential match-winners slightly below peak but absolutely buzzing because they are up for the cup than make that trip fully fit but on a downer because of a midweek exit that has signalled the end of the season.
COME ON BORO!