Blackpool v Middlesbrough: Team news, predicted line-up and quotes from Neil Critchley

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Blackpool will look to sign off 2021 with a win tonight when they host Middlesbrough at Bloomfield Road in their final game of the year.

 

The Seasiders will be aiming to get back to winning ways after suffering a cruel 3-2 defeat to Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day.

The men in tangerine were on course to make it back-to-back wins before Jordan Gabriel’s dismissal on the hour-mark, which galvanised the home side who completed their comeback late on.

While Blackpool’s performances have remained pretty good, Neil Critchley’s side have only won one of their last 10 games.

Wednesday night’s opponents, meanwhile, are enjoying a rich vein of form having won four of their last five under new boss Chris Wilder.

Boro, who were beaten 2-1 by Blackpool at the Riverside in September, sit fifth in the Championship table.

Stephen Martin, who officiated Blackpool’s games against Bournemouth and Barnsley earlier in the season, will take charge of the game.

Chris Wilder's side have won four of their last five games

Chris Wilder’s side have won four of their last five games

Team news

Blackpool’s squad will be stretched to the limit for their final game of 2021.

A further positive Covid-19 case has been recorded since the Boxing Day trip to Huddersfield, while Sonny Carey is now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a metatarsal injury.

Jordan Gabriel, who was dismissed at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday, is now suspended for two games having also been sent off for former club Nottingham Forest earlier in the season.

Chris Maxwell, Luke Garbutt, Reece James, Callum Connolly, Kevin Stewart, Matty Virtue, Ryan Wintle, Grant Ward and Owen Dale are also unavailable due to a mix of Covid and injuries.

A further round of Covid testing will be undertaken on the morning of the game and if further positives are returned, the Seasiders could struggle to name the required number of players.

EFL rules dictate that fixtures should go ahead if clubs are able to field 13 outfield players plus a goalkeeper.

Neil Critchley’s pre-match comments

“You can see the quality they’ve got in their squad.

“Chris has come in and implemented a style of play which is slightly different to how they played under Neil Warnock.

“It’s a similar system though with their back three and three in midfield, which is something Chris is used to from his time at Sheffield United.

“He was quite rightly lauded for his formation and his philosophy at Sheffield United and he’s implemented something similar at Middlesbrough and enjoyed success very quickly.

“He’s an excellent manager, they’re a well coached team and they’ve got good players. They’re in good form with four wins out of their last five and they’ve not conceded a goal in their last four games, so it shows you the task we’ve got in front of us.

“They’ve jumped up the league and they’re in a play-off place and they’re bang in form, so it’s a big, big test for us.”

Opposition view

“We know Blackpool are a decent side in a tough division,” Boro boss Chris Wilder said.

“They’re going in the right direction now under a really progressive manager. They have a lot of really good footballers there.

“The expectation is maybe slightly lower than some of the other clubs in the division, but they’re a really dangerous side and one for me where we’ve got to get our attitude right.

“If we play well we’ll give ourselves a good chance of winning. But we’re up against some talented players that were pretty unfortunate to lose late on at the weekend, even playing with ten men for a large period.

“As any Championship side is, they’re really dangerous in front of their own punters and we’ve got to make sure we’re bang at it to get a result.

“There are no gimmes in this division against any side and we know we have to be on it and this is a game I really look forward to.”

Pool’s predicted line-up (442): Grimshaw, Sterling, Ekpiteta, Keogh, Husband, Dougall, Anderson, Bowler, Mitchell, Yates, Madine