Sports Mole previews Wednesday’s Championship clash between Blackpool and Middlesbrough, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
At a time when Boro are pushing for a return to the Premier League, Blackpool’s recent poor form has left them to focus on ensuring that they remain well clear of the relegation zone.
While Middlesbrough supporters would have had high expectations after the appointment of Chris Wilder, they would not have envisaged their current upturn in result so soon after his arrival.
Fourteen points have been collected from seven games, moving Boro from mid-table into the playoff spots, and there is now an efficiency regarding how they go about their business.
Boro did not score many goals under Neil Warnock and that has continued on Wilder’s watch, but conceding just once in five games has been the difference maker.
Nevertheless, the North-East outfit deserve praise for the level of their performance against fellow in-form side Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day, Boro ultimately having to make do with a 2-0 win when they could have easily prevailed by a wider margin.
With just six points separating fifth to 13th, there will be no complacency within the Boro ranks, but they can continue to perform with a certain level of freedom as they bid to chase down the inconsistent top two.
Boro have already had two unhappy experiences against Blackpool this season, losing 3-0 at Bloomfield Road in the EFL Cup before suffering a 2-1 defeat in the league.
However, the Seasiders are currently enduring their worst run of the campaign with just six points being collected from the nine games played since the start of November.
Neil Critchley‘s side rallied to claim a 3-1 triumph over Peterborough United on December 18, but they slipped up equally late in proceedings in succumbing to a 3-2 defeat at Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day.
While playing the final 29 minutes at a player disadvantage did not help matters, Critchley would have expected his team to have at least held on for a point after leading with 10 minutes remaining.
Although staying out of trouble will be Critchley’s primary objective, Blackpool head into Wednesday’s fixture with the chance to move within three points of their next opponents.
Blackpool Championship form:
Middlesbrough Championship form:
Critchley must decide whether to hand a recall to Richard Keogh, although the veteran has just 86 minutes of football under his belt since the start of November.
Marc Bola will be sidelined for the foreseeable future after sustaining a serious knee injury.
Blackpool possible starting lineup:
Grimshaw; Lawrence-Gabriel, Ekpiteta, Gretarsson, Husband; Bowler, Dougall, Carey, Anderson; Madine, Yates
Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Lumley; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair; Jones, Crooks, Howson, Tavernier, Taylor; Watmore, Sporar
We say: Blackpool 1-2 Middlesbrough
There have been signs in the last two matches that Blackpool are starting to get back on track. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore Boro’s recent form, leading us to predict a narrow victory for Wilder’s team on the North-West coast.