GIVEN Middlesbrough’s parlous recent form, reviving the spirits through history is currently a default mechanism for many on Teesside.
The sight of Manchester City arriving today is likely to evoke happier times, too; with Boro famously routing the Blues 8-1 in Sven Goran Eriksson’s send-off in May, 2008 and knocking them out of both domestic cup competitions at the old Ayresome Park in 1991-92.
More recently, a last-gasp strike from Marten de Roon earned Boro an unlikely point at the Etihad in the autumn, while the pair’s previous meeting in the FA Cup saw the Teessiders stun the star-studded Lancastrians in a shock 2-0 fourth-round triumph in January, 2015.
Boro may take solace from those episodes, but their recent travails are rather more contemporary on an afternoon when Aitor Karanka is likely to be gasping for the equivalent of managerial air if events take another serious downturn.
On the back of an awful 10-match winless streak in the Premier League, only progress in the FA Cup has ensured that 2017 has not been a total write-off for Boro – and how beleaguered Karanka could do with another shot in the arm this lunch-time.
Painful defeats at Stoke and Crystal Palace have seen many supporters turn against him and, after being in sticky situations before, Karanka now faces his stiffest battle yet to win back the doubters.
I cannot be afraid of something that I cannot control. The decision is out of my hands. My concern is to prepare the team to compete on Saturday.Middlesbrou8gh boss, Aitor Karanka
The Spaniard said: “I learned a new word – that I am not a quitter.
“I cannot be afraid of something that I cannot control.
“The decision is out of my hands. My concern is to prepare the team to compete on Saturday, to show them how Man City plays and how we can beat them, this is my only concern.
“As long as I feel one player here is supporting me, I will fight for him.
“Because when I see their faces – disappointed because we lost and they couldn’t do their best but they tried their best, until that day I will be fighting here.
“I have players here who have been with me since I arrived and I will do more than my best to stay with them until the last moment.”
Karanka could be without three defenders today. Calum Chambers is sidelined with a foot problem, and is joined on the sidelines by Daniel Ayala, who limped off with a hamstring injury eight minutes into the 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stoke. Full-back George Friend is likely to miss out after aggravating a calf injury.