Fulham v Middlesbrough preview: Changes likely as Boro return to Championship opposition

Middlesbrough's first opponents in the renamed League Cup come in the form of Fulham, who beat fellow London based Leyton Orient in the first round of the EFL Cup.

Fulham v Middlesbrough preview: Changes likely as Boro return to Championship opposition
Albert Adomah rises to score the first goal of the game, in Boro's most recent encounter with Fulham | Photo: REX FEATURES

On Wednesday, Middlesbrough travel to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham in the EFL Cup.

The League Cup is Middlesbrough's only honour, except promotions, in their 140-year history. Goals from Bolo Zenden and Joseph Job gave Middlesbrough victory over Bolton in the 2004 Carling Cup final.

Form coming into the match

Middlesbrough come into the game having collected four points from their first two games in the Premier League, while Fulham sit in fifth position in the Championship table, with a points tally of eight from their opening four games.

Aitor Karanka's side beat local rivals Sunderland 2-1 on Sunday, with a brace from Cristhian Stuani enough to settle victory, despite a late goal from Dutch left-back Patrick van Aanholt.

Stuani could be in contention for a start tomorrow after an impressive showing at the weekend | Photo: Getty
Stuani could be in contention for a start tomorrow after an impressive showing at the weekend | Photo: Getty

Fulham, on the other hand, play their second game at home in the space of four days. The Cottagers drew 2-2 with Cardiff City on Saturday, with Kevin McDonald rescuing a point for the Greater London side.

How did previous meetings between the sides end?

Middlesbrough and Fulham faced off twice in the 2015/16 Championship season. A rather lacklustre stalemate was followed by a two-nil win for Boro at Craven Cottage. Albert Adomah and Grant Leadbitter came up with the goals on that day.

The much more entertaining tie - for the neutral - came in the 2014/15 season.

Middlesbrough needed points to keep tabs with the leaders, Bournemouth and Watford and with the match level at 3-3, Aitor Karanka sent goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos up for a corner. Boro, however, got caught on the counter and Ross McCormack scored Fulham's fourth goal of the game.

The game arguably cost Middlesbrough promotion, and pushed Boro into the playoffs where Norwich triumphed over Karanka's team.

Team news

Aitor Karanka, today, confirmed that 'keeper Victor Valdes will miss 'Boro's next two matches,' as well as noting that rotation will not prevent him from fielding a strong team.

Valdes started Middlesbrough's first Premier League match in seven years, against Stoke City, but Brad Guzan made his Boro debut against Sunderland on Sunday due to Valdes' training-induced hamstring injury.

Karanka will choose between Guzan, Dimi Konstantopoulos and Tomas Mejias between the sticks for the visitors.

The head coach also confirmed that centre-half Daniel Ayala will play against Fulham, after coming on as a substitute at the Stadium of Light. Fabio is also in contention for a start tomorrow, following his £2m switch from Wales to Teesside.

Ayala will feature tomorrow after recovering from an injury which stopped him starting Boro's first two games | Photo: MFC.co.uk
Ayala will feature tomorrow after recovering from an injury which stopped him starting Boro's first two games | Photo: MFC

Valdes, along with Marten de Roon, Leadbitter and James Husband will miss the cup tie, as well as new signing Bernardo Espinosa who has featured twice for Boro's U23 side but has yet to make his first team debut.

Ayala is the only confirmed starter, while Jordan Rhodes is said to be in contention for a start following transfer speculation surrounding the former Blackburn front man, with the Spanish head coach not keen to see Rhodes leave the club.