Ipswich v Middlesbrough: Karanka predicts physical test of Boro’s mettle

DURING the course of this season, already Middlesbrough have proved highly proficient at ending lamentable statistics at traditionally unwelcoming venues.

Adam Clayton

Aitor Karanka’s side vanquished their Hillsborough hoodoo at the end of August in a 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday – following five losses in their six previous outings there – and followed up with a rare 2-1 victory at Nottingham Forest the following month, just their second in 22 visits to the City Ground.

A noteworthy hat-trick will be achieved if the Teesside club triumph at another ground they find inhospitable in Portman Road, where they are without a win in their past 10 visits.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

All told, Boro have won just twice in their last 21 matches in Suffolk and suffered a few thrashings along the way, most painfully in their Division Two promotion campaign in 1987-88 when Dalian Atkinson fired a stunning hat-trick in a 4-0 rout in April 1988.

Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

Just as with Bruce Rioch’s side back then, the present-day Boro arrive at Ipswich in a lofty position, while mindful they face hosts who overpowered them on home soil last term for a 2-0 win.

Unbeaten in six games and without a home loss since the end of August, the Tractor Boys are getting their act together after a slow start to the season.

They have also had extended preparation time in contrast to Boro, in Capital One Cup action in midweek against Everton on Tuesday, which followed a tough afternoon at Huddersfield.

But despite a gruelling schedule, Karanka believes his side have the resources to cope in what he expects to be a physical battle.

He said: “Ipswich is a team that plays long balls and they are strong. I expect a physical game. They have had a whole week to prepare, but we’ve a good squad.”

Boro do have one lucky charm in their ranks in David Nugent, who has scored 14 goals in his last 13 games against Town, and on his last seven trips to Suffolk.

Karanka has a full squad to choose from with Daniel Ayala, Adam Clayton and Diego Fabbrini all avoiding a fifth yellow card before the November 30 cut-off.

Last six games: Ipswich: DDWWDW, Middlesbrough WWLWWL.

Referee: T Robinson (West Sussex).

Last time: Ipswich 2 Middlesbrough 0; December 20, 2014; Championship.