Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Big day arrives

FA Cup Quarter finals don't come around too often when you are a Charlton fan. They don't come around too often for Boro fans either, but they are not as much of a rarity on Teeside as they are on Thameside.

The Valley will hopefully be a noisy and passionate place to be this Thursday night; the crowd will be close to capacity after all of the sales and marketing ploys launched by the club over the past week or so.

Alan Curbishley once more goes head-to-head against a rival for the England managers job - Steve McLaren. Last season, it was Mclaren who seemed to have the edge, with Boro winning a very tactical game at the Valley 2-1 thanks in part to a Zenden goal. This season, Curbs has taken the honours so far, with a comfortable 3-0 victory at the Riverside stadium, and a closer 2-1 home win just a couple of weekends ago. The away win was a continuation of Charlton's great early season away form, with wingers Thomas and Rommedahl causing havoc when fed by Murphy. Rommedahl (left) scored a great first goal, then Chris Perry and Darren Bent scored second half goals to make the game safe. Boro didn't really feature apart from forcing Andersen into making one great reflex save late in the first half.

At The Valley 11 days ago, a dire first half was forgotten once Curbs switched to 4-5-1 formation at half time. This time, Thomas and Ambrose played wide and Darren Bent scored a couple of late tap-in goals after crosses from the full backs. Thomas Myrhe was the goalkeeper who kept Charlton in the match though this time, and he will once more be a central figure in the outcome of this tie.

The Valley game was played following Boro's recent home tie with Roma in the UEFA cup, and they put out a weakened, but not weak, side. Who McLaren picks for the Addicks cup tie is open to debate at present, but it is expected to be a stronger team than that which we saw in the recent Premiership fixture.

Mark Viduka scored a great goal that day, and he will almost certainly play alongside either Yakubu or Hasselbaink. Chris Riggott is doubtful, and the Boro defence is stretched with injuries at present, giving Charlton a little hope. In midfield, I doubt that the inexperienced youngsters who played in the league game will feature again; Mendietta and Boateng should be back and Downing is expected to play out wide.

I hope that the occasion is considered as important by the players as it is for most of the fans who turn up; Charlton have been starved of success for too many years in this competition - we can definitely say that we have not been knocked out by lower league opposition this year, and hopefully this trend will continue until the preconception is forgotten (it doesn't happen all that often - check the records...)!

Charlton have no new known injuries to worry about, and with Rommedahl and Sorondo featuring at the weekend, are almost back to full strength. Marcus Bent is cup-tied so will not be missed, and with Bothroyd and Bartlett not the threats that we wish they were, I expect Curbs to play 4-5-1 in this game.

This is the team I expect to see feature -

Thomas Myrhe, Luke Young, Hermann Hreidersson, Chris Perry, Chris Powell, Radistan Kishishev, Matt Holland, Jason Euell, Jerome Thomas, Dennis Rommedahl, Darren Bent.
Subs - Andersen, Sorondo, Hughes, Bartlett, Bothroyd.

My one-to-watch in this match just has to be Darren Bent (left). Two goals against Boro recently, three against them for the season, and nineteen in total make him a dangerous player to play against. With the World Cup looming, he needs to keep scoring, and what better way to do so than in the FA Cup and with millions plus Sven watching on TV.

Pedro45's score forecast just has to be positive and optimistic. All three previous initial cup meetings with Boro have ended in a 1-1 draw, with Boro winning all the ties after replays eventually, but I'm going to stick my neck out and hope for another scrambled 2-1 victory.

Is it prudent to talk about what might be; what might happen if we win the Boro game? It's too tempting not to really, and we might not get a chance afterwards to say the following...

West Ham - played once, won 2-0.
Liverpool - played twice, won 2-0, drew 0-0.
Chelsea - played three times, won 1-1 (5-4 on penalties), drew 1-1, lost 0-2.
Newcastle - played once, drew 0-0.
If you add Boro to that lot (played twice, won 3-0 and 2-1) then we have a pretty good chance of not only getting to a Cup semi final but going all the way and winning it! There, that's probably blown it big time!

It remains to be seen if it's Charlton or Middlesboro who have been hung, drawn, and quartered after the match.

The official site preview is here.

Come on you reds!

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