Strong Boro home record means tough away trip for Ipswich
Only Leeds United have beaten Middlesbrough at their Riverside ground since August. Mick McCarthy brings Ipswich Town to Teesside, having lost the Suffolk side’s previous good form, and the visitors are 10/3 outsiders with Coral to cause an upset.
Recent history is also against the Tractor Boys, with the last five meetings being won by the home team in this fixture, and four of those to nil. Boro are odds-on at 17/20 for victory, and better at 21/10 to do so without conceding.
If Aitor Karanka needs to give his players any extra incentive for this contest, then telling them a win will allow Middlesbrough to storm a march on the other three sides locked together on top of the Championship on 66 points should suffice.
With the second-tier title race wide open, this is Boro’s best chance to get back into the Premier League since they suffered relegation in 2009.
Karanka’s mentor Jose Mourinho, who he served as assistant to when ‘the Special One’ was in charge of Real Madrid, has certainly done everything he can to help out, sending three Chelsea players up north on loan.
Chief among those is highly-rated England Under-21 attacker Patrick Bamford. He has scored first in two of his last three home starts, and is a 5/1 chance to do so again here.
What Karanka has in attack are options aplenty. He can use Bamford up front or from the flank, allowing either Kike (5/4 in the anytime market) or ex-Belgium striker Jelle Vossen (better at 6/4) to lead the line.
There are also genuine wide players like Albert Adomah and Mustapha Carayol, who have both netted in this fixture before, making them equal 7/2 chances to do so again anytime.
Dead ball specialist Grant Leadbitter faces his former club here, and scored three times for his old side in previous head-to-heads. Odds of 2/1 say the midfielder will come back to haunt the Suffolk side by being on target here.
Bamford’s fellow Stamford Bridge loan stars Tomas Kalas and Kenneth Omeuro, plus the other Middlesbrough defenders, have to contain the Championship’s leading marksman Daryl Murphy, however.
Blooming late under McCarthy at Ipswich, despite showing small flashes of promise at Sunderland and Celtic, the Republic of Ireland international turns 32 the day after this trip to Teesside, but boasts 22 goals in just 34 league outings.
That hugely impressive return, plus the fact Murphy has opened the scoring twice against Boro before, means tasty odds of 7/4 in the anytime market and 6/1 to break the deadlock must be considered by punters.
Who will partner Murphy attack? McCarthy will not risk David McGoldrick, despite his previous good record in previous meetings with Middlesbrough and return to training, or the injured Noel Hunt.
It’s between Chris Wood, a recent loan signing from Premier League strugglers Leicester City, and Freddie Sears, then, and both are 11/4 anytime chances.
New Zealand defender Tommy Smith looks a decent outside shout for the Tractor Boys, though, at 8/1 after scoring three times against this opposition.
Ipswich’s small squad will also be missing midfield duo Darren Ambrose and Luke Hyam so, having lost four of their last five on the road, backing Boro for victory and Bamford to score in a 3/1 wincast could pay dividends.