Sunderland vs. Middlesbrough Preview

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Published: 02/02/2012

It may not quite have the intensity or animosity of the Tyne-Wear derby; however the Tees-Wear equivalent between Sunderland and Middlesbrough is set to be a thrilling encounter in the F.A Cup fourth round on January 29.

Although the Black Cats still and always will regard Newcastle United as their main adversaries, there has been a steadily growing rivalry between Sunderland and Middlesbrough over the past few years thanks largely to the time the two clubs have spent together in the second tier of English football.

It is Sunderland who have now forged ahead of Boro in terms of club success and since Christmas, they have been enjoying an excellent run of form in the Premier League thanks largely to the impact on arrival of their new manager Martin O’Neill.

A strong run of results and eye-catching performances has elevated Sunderland into the top half of the Premiership leading into February and they will be solid favourites to keep their F.A Cup run going at the expense of a deflated Boro who are struggling to maintain any real consistency in and around the Championship play-off zone.

Whilst Sunderland have being lapping up the plaudits after beating mega-rich table toppers Manchester City, Middlesboro have been on the wrong side of 3-0 and 3-1 score lines away from home against Blackpool and Coventry City respectively and they were also shown up in front of their own supporters after struggling Burnley left the Riverside Stadium with a 2-0 success.

Indeed, only a solitary goal from Dutch ace Marvin Emnes separated Boro from lowly League Two outfit Shrewsbury Town in round three and that form alone gives Tony Mowbray’s charges little hope in the face of a buoyant and fluent Sunderland side who look set to get better and better.

Aside from their markedly improved league form, there was a great deal to admire about Sunderland’s confident and professional approach to their third round match away at Peterborough United which saw them ease past the Posh without breaking sweat thanks to a brace from hotshot Swede Sebastian Larsson.

Larsson will lead the line for Sunderland again in this tie and with Boro’s defence apparently in complete disarray, hecan open the scoring at odds of around 5/1.

Unless Middlesbrough can suddenly rediscover their early season touch which saw them fighting for an automatic promotion place, it is difficult to see them troubling O’Neill’s highly promising side even if the prospect of a derby match is enough to make them raise their game.

If this fixture had been drawn at the Riverside, it would have perhaps been easy to forecast a potential replay, however with everyone riding on the crest of a wave at the Stadium of Light, a home win just looks too good to turn down for a sizeable bet at odds of 8/11.

Bookmakers are keen not to underestimate lower clubs in the F.A Cup, especially in derby games, but on this occasion they seem to have let a real piece of value slip through the net as Boro are likely to require a much simpler task than this to get back to winning ways.


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