Man City v Middlesbrough: Extended push for glory at Anfield will help lift Boro

Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka hopes his players can draw on their experience of playing at Anfield this season when they travel to Manchester City in the FA Cup today.

Middlesbroughs Adam Reach is thwarted by Liverpools Simon Mignolet in a Capital One Cup tie in September which went to penalties, the hosts winning 14-13 (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA).
Middlesbroughs Adam Reach is thwarted by Liverpools Simon Mignolet in a Capital One Cup tie in September which went to penalties, the hosts winning 14-13 (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA).

A trip to the home of the Premier League champions sounds a daunting proposition, but Boro showed in September that they are capable of holding their own against top-flight opposition when they pushed Liverpool all the way to penalties in the Capital One Cup.

It was 1-1 after 90 minutes at Anfield and 2-2 following 30 minutes of extra-time, as Patrick Bamford’s 120th-minute penalty set up a shoot-out which Liverpool eventually won 14-13.

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Karanka’s men received plenty of plaudits for their performance against the Reds and the Spaniard hopes that experience will stand Boro in good stead when they travel to the Etihad.

“The best thing we can take from the Liverpool game is the personality we had,’’ said Karanka.

“We played in Anfield and played against them face to face and that’s the important thing (today). I want us to finish the game on Saturday in the same way we finished against Liverpool, where everyone who watched the game thinks about how good a team Middlesbrough are.

“There’s a big difference between us and Manchester City, but football is football.

“I know it’s going to be a difficult game, but we’re preparing to fight face to face with them in the same way that we did against 

“For us it’s a difficult test against one of the best squads not only in the Premier League but the world.

“They have amazing number of players, have a good coach and it will be very difficult for us.

“The normal thing would be for us to lose the game, but I’m not here to prepare the team to lose.’’

Boro head into the fourth-round tie sitting second in the Championship table and looking in good shape to maintain their promotion challenge for the second half of the campaign.

Karanka hopes trips such as today’s to the Etihad will be common place for him and his players – and the club’s supporters – next season.

He said: “It’s good for the players to show everyone that we’re doing really well in the Championship, but we can play against the top teams, too.

“I’m very proud of our fans and I want to tell them that this game is a game that they have to enjoy.

“For them, all of us, it’s good to remember these games against City and Liverpool and other big teams and I hope we can play there again as soon as possible.”

Defender Tomas Kalas is Karanka’s only fresh doubt ahead of the game. The 21-year-old Czech Republic international, who is on loan from Chelsea, took a kick to the ankle during Tuesday night’s league victory over Cardiff and is being assessed.

Former England defender Jonathan Woodgate was an unused substitute against the Bluebirds and is in contention for just his second senior appearance of the season.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claims his team will be refreshed and ready for the challenge of Boro after a week in Abu Dhabi.

City flew to the United Arab Emirates for a five-day warm-weather training camp straight after last week’s frustrating loss to Arsenal.

Their trip included a friendly against German side Hamburg, but they were only due to return to Manchester yesterday.

Some have questioned the wisdom of the mid-season venture given the travelling involved, but Pellegrini does not think the long-haul flight will adversely 
affect preparation.

The Chilean said: “We are not worried about the travelling element. There is only a few hours difference.

“It was the right time to have a break and we’ve enjoyed our stay in Abu Dhabi.

“Last January we played eight or nine games so it was important to have this time so we can return refreshed.”

The trip may have come at a cost with former England midfielder Frank Lampard withdrawn 20 minutes into the Hamburg match as a precaution after suffering an injury in the warm-up.

This makes him doubtful for Middlesbrough although the problem is reportedly not serious and Lampard is expected to be fit to face his former club and title rivals Chelsea next week.

While Lampard may sit out today for fitness reasons, Pellegrini has no plans to rest star names.

He said: “Of course there are always opportunities for players to impress and stake a claim for a place, but we are playing on Saturday and (then) not in midweek.

“We will have a full week to recover before we play Chelsea, so with that in mind I will try and put out the strongest team I can.”

Middlesbrough head to the Etihad Stadium in good form having lost just once in their last 15 matches.

City’s loss to Arsenal has just robbed the team of momentum and left them trailing Chelsea by five points.