SURVIVING the inevitable attacking surge from Brentford in the opening periods of tonight’s game is crucial to Middlesbrough progressing to the Championship play-off final.
A narrow 2-1 lead means that Aitor Karanka cannot and will not instruct his side to defend deep to repress the Bees.
Boro have to attack themselves, ideally scoring to ease nerves, in the first-half to increase their advantage.
A sold-out Riverside should, in theory, daunt the visitors and spur on the Teessiders who are much more familiar playing in attendances of tonight’s size.
But Mark Warburton’s side are arguably the most mentally tough team in the division, defying pre-season predictions of relegation and reclaiming a play-off spot on the last day of the regular season when it looked like for much of April they had squandered their chance.
It is paramount, therefore, that Boro produce their season’s best performance.
Failure to do so and they will be punished by a Brentford side who create and score.
Alex Pritchard and Alan Judge provide the ammunition from the wings, the menacing duo reminding Boro of their trickery, potent talent last Friday. Reducing their impact needs to be prioritised.
It isn’t all about Brentford, though. Final league standings would differ but Boro can stake the claim of having the best team in the division.
Boasting a defence that has remained impermeable on 20 occasions in the league, Brentford will find it hard to penetrate the back-line, just like they did last week aside from Dimi Konstantopoulos’s mistake that led to Andre Gray’s leveller.
Albert Adomah was a threat on the wing all night in London and if he can reproduce then Patrick Bamford, who should shake off an ongoing ankle problem, needs to play the role of Mr Clinical.
It’s in your hands, Boro.
Prediction: Boro 2-0 Brentford