At the top of the Championship table, Hull City were in FA Cup action and didn’t play a league game but Burnley defeated Rotherham United 2-0 at home, to push Boro out of the automatic promotion places. The psychological effect, of dropping out of the top two, can not play on the players’ minds however, with a crucial match against in-form Cardiff on the horizon.
Cardiff arrive at the Riverside Stadium, unbeaten in their last six Championship games and are in contention for a play-off place. In some respects, Cardiff’s 4-1 over Brighton and Hove Albion did Boro a favour but it also means Cardiff are in confident mood ahead of the match.
That being said, Boro need to start concentrating on their own form and not that of visiting teams, if they are to get back to winning ways. Despite having taken just 3 points from the last possible 15 available, there have still been some positives for Boro and it’s time to concentrate on these, rather than the negatives.
Firstly, Boro are unbeaten in their last three games, not only that but they maintained a very good defensive record, conceding just 4 goals during the last five matches. Therefore, despite having to do without key defenders, such as Daniel Ayala and George Friend, Boro still have the best defensive record in the Championship. This, is in no small part due to the way Aitor Karanka has set up the team, well organised and difficult to beat. That being said, goals are becoming increasingly difficult to come by, despite the signing of striker, Jordan Rhodes.
The good news ahead of this game, is the potential return to the defence of Daniel Ayala. Although Boro have not been conceding many goals, as discussed above, his presence at the back, may give the team more confidence going forward. Rhodes could do with a partner up-front, if he is to have a real impact but it’s very unlikely Karanka is going to change his formation now.
Having had a break from action on the weekend, Tuesday night is an opportunity for players and fans alike, to turn up feeling fresh and ready to start a final push towards automatic promotion. It will have been over a week since Boro played a match and Karanka could use this match as a fresh start. The previous run of form belonged to a different set of fixtures and this match against Cardiff, is the start a new set.
The set-up of the team and the majority of players within it will be the same but it's time to forget about that has been and look towards what can still be achieved, which is automatic promotion to the Premier League. It's still in Boro's own hands and a win in this game, would be huge boost for the remainder of the season.