On April 17th, Middlesbrough host Arsenal in a match between two sides that look like they will fail to reach their objectives this season.
With seven matches left, Middlesbrough are looking likely to be relegated. As multiple Sunderland teams have taught us recently, it’s not over until it’s over, but with only seven games left and a six point gap to safety, it’s looking unlikely for Middlesbrough. Firing manager Aitor Karanka does not seem to have fixed their problems, as they’ve only claimed two points in the four matches since he was sacked. Middlesbrough are in a lot of trouble, but a win against Arsenal could change their stars.
While Arsenal have a game in hand on Manchester City and two games in hand on Liverpool, Arsenal’s position and form makes it look like they’ll be missing out on the top four for the first time since 1996. It was unlikely for Arsenal to make the Champions League before their loss to Crystal Palace and after losing it looks like they have nearly no chance. A loss to Middlesbrough would be a final crushing blow for the Gunners and would cement them strongly in the Europa League spots.
Calum Chambers is obviously unavailable to play against his parent club. Other than that, George Friend, Gaston Ramirez, Fabio, and James Husband could all return against Arsenal, according to Physioroom.com.
Arsenal are missing Santi Cazorla through a long term injury, while David Ospina and Lucas Perez will be out for another week or two, according to Physioroom.com. Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny are both fitness doubts for the match, but could pull through as fit, according to Physioroom.com.
Middlesbrough: Adama Traore
Adama Traore is not a very effective player in general, but Middlesbrough do not have a lot of options. Traore is an incredible dribbler and caused Arsenal some problems in transition when they played at the Emirates. His big problem is that he struggles to turn his dribbles into actual shots for himself or his teammates. It is unlikely that he will, but the way Arsenal’s defence has been in 2017, anything is possible.
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez
Arsenal have been struggling to put together good team performances for a few weeks, so they’ll need their stars to turn in some amazing performances if they have any chance of somehow stealing a Champions League place. Alexis Sanchez has been the star for Arsenal this season. After Mesut Ozil had the season of his life last year, Sanchez is doing the same this year. The Chilean has scored 18 goals and assisted nine more in 2535 minutes. In other words he has contributed to a goal every 94 minutes. He has truly been a goal a game player this season, but he may need to be a two or three goal a game player if Arsenal are to save their season.
As bad as Arsenal have been, they’ll probably beat Middlesbrough. They may concede, considering they haven’t kept a clean sheet away from home in the league since January 14th, but they’ll probably be able to score just enough to overcome that.
Prediction: 2-1 Arsenal