It may not be the biggest of England’s league derbies, but you try telling that to either Sunderland or Middlesbrough supporters.
Since Michael Carrick’s arrival at the Riverside Stadium, it is fair that say that Middlesbrough have undergone a huge transformation and one that has led them to the play-off places.
A Team Transformed
With both Burnley and Sheffield United setting the pace in this season’s EFL Championship promotion race, almost a dozen teams are left fighting over the playoff scraps that are left on the table.
Of this sizeable group that makes up the chasing pack, both Sunderland and Middlesbrough are harbouring promotion desires of their own. Although the levels of desire that both are showing have somewhat fluctuated. The Black Cats’ hopes may have waned in the past few weeks, Boro’s have been hugely reignited after an incredible run of results. A run that can be signified by four successive league wins and that is easier said than done in the Championship.
A run that has also thrust Michael Carrick’s men into fourth in the table, a point behind Watford in third but still 12 behind Sheffield United in second. This means it looks like being playoffs at best for the Riverside Stadium outfit.
Then again, even such a finish looked like being wishful thinking before the World Cup break and if this team were to be playing in a new division next season, League One would have been a far more likely candidate. With third to sixth ultimately paying the same prize at the end of the season, the exact finish has an element of irrelevance for both Sunderland and Middlesbrough. With that being said, you certainly cannot take your foot off the pedal at this level.
Something that Tony Mowbray’s men have seemingly done as of late, a 3-1 home reverse to Swansea in their last outing is now in the history books and it is a defeat which sees them slip down to 10th.
That home defeat and the previous 1-1 draw at Blackpool only further highlights how brutal this league can be. Win two or more on the bounce and you are back in the playoff mix, fail to win back-to-back outings and you are quickly slipping down the league ladder. This means it is not only precious points that are up for grabs but also local bragging rights to go with it and with ‘Boro arriving to the Stadium of Light, it is hard to look past them in terms of my first tip.
Which is why I am not only backing Michael Carrick’s men to come out on top but for both teams to score. They may have won each of their last four, but they have conceded in three. If the same combination comes good, we can get things started at odds of 4/1.
While in addition to that, I have plumped for a correct score bet and if you are using the same away win and both teams to score logic, then a 2-1 victory for the visitors seems sound enough for me and I am also backing this one at odds of 17/2.