Having come out on top in a recent showdown with second place Derby, Middlesbrough looks a stronger bet for promotion than ever, and sits four points clear atop the Championship table.
At this point, it feels like their season to lose. However, the more interesting question might not be when or if they’ll lose again, but in fact when they’ll concede another goal!
It’s been perfectly evident that Boro are on a hot streak defensively, but naturally such a streak gets more impressive the longer it lasts. Recently, the numbers have begun to look staggering. Heading into the weekend clash between Middlesbrough and Derby, Betfair’s sports section took a look at each club’s recent history and the likelihood of a potential upset (which would have resulted in Derby taking over the top position). And in the analysis, it was pointed out that Boro had recorded seven straight clean sheets! The 2-0 triumph over Derby of course stretched that number to eight straight dating back to a 3-0 loss at Hull City on November 7. Since that span, Boro have now won seven and drawn one, all without allowing a goal.
It’s the sort of stretch that begins to seem as if it can’t stop. But Boro may well be facing their toughest task in months next Tuesday when they travel to Griffin Park to take on Brentford away from home. And when these two played back in September, Brentford at least managed to find the net in a 3-1 loss at Middlesbrough. The Guardian’s football page recalls that part of the struggle for Boro may have been the relative turmoil resulting from a dispute between manager Aitor Karanka and Albert Adomah. Nevertheless, Karanka conceded that Brentford made it tough on them, so it’s easy to imagine another competitive match this time around—particularly at Griffin Park.
The smart money still has to be on Middlesbrough keeping its clean sheet streak intact, as they’re simply the stronger club. But throw in the fact that Brentford is second only to Fulham in goals forced this season, and Tuesday looks very interesting indeed.