With the Manchester derby and Chelsea v Arsenal taking place this weekend, the very significant match between Middlesbrough and Newcastle has been somewhat overlooked by the media. However, one man hoping to make sure the game sticks in the memory come Saturday afternoon is the returning Mark Viduka.
The Newcastle striker hasn’t played a game of competitive football since the beginning of May, but he could be set for a surprise return against his former club on Saturday. Viduka had been suffering with an Achilles problem, but has made excellent progress since returning to training a couple of weeks ago.
The 33-year-old is obviously still quite some way off match fitness, and hasn’t even played a game for the reserves as yet. However, Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear may well be tempted to stick him on the bench this Saturday. Viduka could act as a impact substitution for the Magpies, and there is no doubt that Middlesbrough would rather not see him involved.
Speaking about the situation, Kinnear said that ‘you might find he’s on the bench’ because the player has ‘surprised us all’ with the speed of his recovery. Kinnear went on to say that Viduka is one of the ‘leaders’ in the squad and, of course, a ‘terrific player’.
This is definitely the case as far as I am concerned. Viduka has always been a player I have rated highly, and perhaps he hasn’t achieved as much as he should have done in the game so far. Yes, he’s had his fair share of injury problems that have held him back, but for the ability he possesses, surely he should have won more trophies?
It will certainly be interesting to see how he fares should he be involved. I have a hunch that he might just grab himself a goal.
As for the game itself, well home advantage ensures that Middlesbrough are the favourites to pick up the three points according to the majority of football odds. They sit eight places above Newcastle in the table, but amazingly they are only four points ahead of Kinnear’s men.
So, despite their seemingly contrasting starts to the season, a win for Newcastle would see them climb to within one point of their opponents. Shows how tight the league is this season doesn’t it? No team below Everton in 7th are a safe distance from the relegation zone, and this makes the game at the Riverside all the more crucial.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about football betting