Thursday, December 6, 2007

Middlesbrough vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

High-flying Arsenal travel to the Riverside to face Gareth Southgate's struggling Middlesbrough this Sunday.

Arsenal drew 1-1 with Newcastle midweek, and will face a stiffer challenge this weekend due to the absence of many key players.

However, a Middlesbrough team sitting in the relegation zone shouldn't trouble the Gunners too much. Boro haven't won a game since September first at home to Birmingham, and sit in 18th with only 11 points from 15 games.

Middlesbrough will be missing goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer as well as Mido, Brad Jones, and Matthew Bates. However, Boro will be boosted with Andrew Taylor's return.

Arsenal are still missing four midfield players and last season's top striker Robin van Persie. The midfield casualties are Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, and Abou Diaby. All five look like they may return to fitness in time for next weekends clash against Chelsea though.

Arsene Wenger will likely stick with his first-choice defensive lineup, even against a team which has only scored 13 goals this season. That means that Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy are probably going to feature in the Arsenal starting XI.

Wenger could give a break to some of his players though, possibly playing the error-prone Philippe Senderos to give William Gallas a break before a congested series of fixtures.

Arsenal's midfield will likely be unchanged from Wednesday's game with Newcastle, with Lassana Diarra and Gilberto in holding roles and Emmanuel Eboue and Eduardo on the right and left respectively. This would leave Tomas Rosicky playing in his favored central attacking midfield role.

Up front Emmanuel Adebayor, the Premier League's top scorer with 9 goals, will look to add more to his tally against Middlesbrough's weak defense.

Games are rarely as easy in real life as they are on paper, but this mismatched tie should give Arsenal an easy three points. I say 3-0 to the Arsenal.