MIDDLESBROUGH will be able to call upon Merouane Zemmana for tonight’s Carling Cup clash at Walsall (kick off 7.45pm).
The Moroccan is currently following the Islamic month of Ramadan and, as a result of fasting during daylight hours, started from the bench during Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Portsmouth.
Tony Mowbray will be without international quartet Barry Robson, Scott McDonald, Rhys Williams and Tarmo Kink for the trip to the Banks’s Stadium, as well as on-loan Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
That is why the availability of midfielder Zemmana is a relief for the Boro boss.
Mowbray said: “Zemmama’s going through Ramadan at the moment so there’s no way he could play 90 minutes.
“He’ll be available tonight, however. The problem is the loss of four players who could have been involved.”
Because Boro’s First Round tie at Walsall is more than 80 miles from Zemmama’s home, he’ll be able to travel and play against the League One club.
And Mowbray insists that he won’t be fielding a weakened team, adding: “Tuesday is an important game, a dangerous game, as we found out at Carlisle about the quality of League One clubs.
“There won’t be a second-string team apart from the changes that we have to make due to players being away on international duty.
“We go there to try and win a game though we know it could be a very tough game. We’re going to be four players down otherwise we would be playing our strongest team possible.
“I’ve never disrespected cup competitions that’s probably why some of my teams have got so far in the cups.
“It’s okay trying to protect certain players but Middlesbrough should be a team with aspirations for the Championship and should be trying to have a decent cup run.”
Meanwhile, Julio Arca is set to sign a new contract at the Riverside having appeared destined for pastures new.
The Argentinian left Boro’s Rockliffe Park training ground with his personal possessions last week after talks over a new deal broke down.
But it now appears that the two parties have come to an agreement, after much persuasion from Mowbray, and the former Sunderland midfielder could conclude the deal at some point today.