Middlesbrough enjoyed a slice of good fortune when their Boxing Day clash with Blackburn was postponed due to the inclement Lancashire weather. Not only do they benefit from the extra rest here but the knock-on effect can arguably provide a cumulative advantage going into Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with Derby.
That mammoth tussle will be the Rams’ third match in eight days, the second of which - away at Leeds - isn’t played until 26 hours after this one. And though Aitor Karanka wouldn’t like to admit it publicly, one suspects an intuitive manager of his ilk will be tempted to keep something back by nicking maximum points against the Owls with limited exertion.
As such, it’s hard to look beyond the Middlesbrough 1-0 and Middlesbrough 2-0 correct scores at 11/2 and 7/1 respectively. It’s not like the Teessiders aren’t already familiar with those outcomes in any case. No fewer than 17 of their 39 league wins - exactly a quarter of all their matches - since the start of last season have been one of those scorelines, 11 out of 23 at home.
On a further nine occasions - seven at home - Boro have stretched their lead to three or four goals without reply. But rather than take the comparatively unappetising 13/8 ‘win to nil’ price, the option of dutching the one-goal and two-goal home wins at around 13/5 is much more favourable given what we also know about the level of discipline Carlos Carvalhal’s men have displayed on occasions this term.
Naturally, the Portuguese is bemoaning the schedule and it’s reasonable to assume he will respond to Wednesday’s misfortune by rotating his squad, packing bodies behind the ball and prioritising the clean sheet. It’s a switch that worked wonders earlier in the season when a more pragmatic outlook for midweek away games at Bolton, Newcastle and QPR sandwiched a 1-0 win at St James’s Park with a couple of 0-0s at the Macron and Loftus Road.
However, we’re a bit further down the line now, and a couple of months can make all the difference where concentration is concerned. Tempting though it is to take those stats at face value believe ‘no goalscorer’ is a lively option at 8/1, we have to respect how much the circumstances favour Boro.
Home wins for over Wolves (4-1) and Brimingham (3-0) in Wednesday's last two outings might have been relatively comfortable but a second-half stroll against Gary Rowett’s men 48 hours ago still doesn’t equate to putting your feet up in front of the telly. There's an obvious difference in class. Boro can make their superiority count in routine fashion.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.