FA Cup: Middlesborough vs. Sunderland and 5 Hot-to-Trot Tips

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIFebruary 8, 2012

MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 10:  Kenwyne Jones of Sunderland tackles Emanuel Pogatetz of Middlesbrough during the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Sunderland at the Riverside Stadium on January 10, 2009 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The FA Cup truly is a wonderful competition, purely for the fact that it allows teams to compete—no matter how excellent, average or downright terrible their regular season tournaments may be going.

And for both Sunderland and Middlesbrough, the FA Cup might just be the perfect opportunity to turn an otherwise frustrating season in to success.

So, with everything on the line, and both sides definitely confident at taking them home with them, this one could prove to be an interesting matchup.

Whether you're a diehard supporter or just a casual observer, here are five hot-to-trot money-making tips that are sure to make this game even greater for you.


1. Head-to-head

After both sides fought out a 1-1 draw in Sunderland, it's essentially a winner-takes-all contest that will take place in Middlesbrough.

At the end of the day, this is Sunderland's match to lose. They were nowhere near their attacking best when they struggled for the draw at home, but they are of a better class than Middlesbrough.

In fact, since Martin O'Neill took over as the club's manager, the Black Cats have racked up 19 points in nine games, and would be the league leaders had the season started upon his arrival. Don't believe that? Check it out here for yourself.

MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 10:  Dean Whitehead of Sunderland holds off Afonso Alves of Middlesbrough during the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Sunderland at the Riverside Stadium on January 10, 2009 in Middlesbrough,
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

They've only lost once since Christmas, and that was to Champions League hopeful Chelsea, and have shown no signs of the hapless form that they displayed earlier in the season.

Expect Middlesbrough to do everything they can to hold off O'Neill's men, but a goal either side of half-time will be too much for them to overcome, as Sunderland take the win in this one.

Hot-to-trot tip: Sunderland to win the match


2. Half-time result // full-time result

Throughout their Premier League encounters, the Black Cats have displayed their dominance in the second half, rather than the first.

They are currently scoring (and allowing) more goals in the second half than in the first, and have only been leading at half time in 25 percent of their matches.

However, in that same period of time, their opponents have only taken the lead into the break on 25 percent of occasions. When you consider that the scoring prowess and abilities that the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and the rest of the Premier League sides possess, holding Middlesborough at bay should be an easier task.

Should be.

MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 10:  Kenwyne Jones of Sunderland scores a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Sunderland at the Riverside Stadium on January 10, 2009 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Matthew
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

This doesn't mean that they will, but you've got to think that Martin O'Neill will have it drilled in to the minds of his players that allowing the first goal heaps all the pressure back on them. They allowed an early one against Middlesborough last time; don't expect that to happen again.

Hot-to-trot tip: Draw HT Result // Sunderland FT Result


3. Total goals for the match

Going off a scoreless first half, the 2.5 goal mark looks fairly safe, considering that three second half goals is unlikely. Over half of Sunderland's away matches have gone under 2.5 goals, and it seems highly unlikely that they will be pressing for a second or third goal in this one.

The money is coming for the under, and I think that it is a safe option, as long as it is a relatively quiet first half. If Sunderland get an early goal, expect the strong defense to come out to play throughout the remainder of the match.

And if they don't score early, that's less minutes for goals to be scored. I think Middlesborough may be frustrated up front—even at home—and that a quiet hour or so is bound to ensue.

Either way, the under 2.5 goals looks safe. Ish.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01:  Sunderland striker Frazier Campbell celebrates after scoring the first Sunderland goal during the Barclays Premier League game between Sunderland and Norwich City at Stadium of Light on February 1, 2012 in Sunderland, E
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Hot-to-trot tip: Under 2.5 goals for the match

4. Player to score at anytime

Stephane Sessegnon has been a revelation for Sunderland in the latter part of the year, and has featured on the score sheet numerous times in recent encounters against quality Premier League sides.

He is the favorite by many markets to be first goal scorer for the match at around 6/1, and rightly so. With the lack of much offensive presence expected by Middlesborough due to the stiff Black Cat defense, taking a player to score at any time may well end up the first and only goal for the match.

I'd either take Sessegnon to score, or a 1-0 Sunderland victory. And considering this tip is about the a player to score, Sessegnon it is.

Hot-to-trot tip: Stephane Sessegnon to score at anytime


5. Team to qualify

This is a Cup replay, meaning that somebody has to qualify and someone has to go home, meaning that should the game be tied at the end of 90 minutes, extra time and possibly penalties will be required.

PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08:  Sebastian Larsson (2nd L) of Sunderland is congratulated by teammates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Cup Third Round match between Peterborough United and Sunderland at London Road Stadium on January 8, 2
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

And thus running with the trend, it is obvious that a Sunderland victory means that they will qualify for the 5th Round.

Even with a draw, the Black Cats should have enough class to find an extra-time goal, or take home the match on penalties.

They let a win slip through their fingers last time the two sides met; expect Martin O'Neill's men to have too much class, skill and overall ability to let that happen again.

Hot-to-trot tip: Sunderland to qualify


Read more articles by Dan here or follow him on Twitter: @dantalintyre



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