The big games keep on coming for Brentford this season – and Saturday’s televised clash with Middlesbrough is no exception.
It is the second in a run of six matches in which we face four other sides in the top seven – with last week’s win at Norwich and the forthcoming visits of Watford and Bournemouth the others.
The signing of Adam Forshaw from Wigan this week has only added to the interest.
Boro are currently on an unbeaten run of seven matches in all competitions during which they have only conceded one goal – and they have by far and away the best defensive record in the Championship.
In their 27 league games they have only let in 18 goals – five fewer than the next best mark of 23 of Sheffield Wednesday.
And they have only lost five times – the last of those defeats at Ipswich on the Saturday before Christmas.
They have also scored plenty of goals and as well as their 4-0 win over us, they beat Norwich by the same score and also won 5-1 at Millwall.
Boro hit the national headlines last weekend with their superb FA Cup fourth round win at Manchester City and their reward is a fifth round tie at Arsenal.
They had an amazing game in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season when they lost 14-13 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at Liverpool following a 2-2 draw.
Middlesbrough were a Premier League regular in the last two decades – but an 11-year spell in the top flight ended with relegation in 2009.
Before this season they have rarely looked like getting back with four mid or lower mid-table finishes in the last five years.
The one exception was the 2011/12 season when they finished seventh – but even then they were five points behind sixth-placed Cardiff.
WHO’S THE GAFFER?
Aitor Karanka was appointed as Middlesbrough manager in November 2013.
He previously worked as Real Madrid’s assistant manager to Jose Mourinho but this is the first time he has held the top job at a club.
He spent virtually all of his playing career in Spain with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid before ending it with a brief spell playing in the USA.
Karanka, a defender, also won one full cap for Spain.
On being appointed he said: “It is my time, I know I am ready. I’ve worked for three years with Jose and he was supporting me every day and I learned so much.
“He recommended me to come here – he too believes in this project.”
We have not met Middlesbrough many times over the years – in fact Saturday will be their first league visit since the last Sunday before Christmas in 1986.
That day was significant for the opening of the Brook Road “Wendy House” stand but for little else from a Bees point of view as we lost 1-0.
Boro have been here since then however – in the second round of the Worthington Cup in October 2002. The then Premier League side fielded an entire team of reserves but still proved far too strong for us as they romped to a 4-1 win.
The last time we beat Middlesbrough in any competition was in an FA Cup third round tie in 1964 when we won 2-1.
Our last league victory over them was way back in December 1938 when we won an old First Division match 2-1.
THE MIDDLESBROUGH VIEW
Aitor Karanka has refused to let the excitement of the FA Cup win over Manchester City affect concentration for the trip to Griffin Park.
Speaking to the Hartlepool Mail, he said: “For me it was my biggest, proudest achievement – beating Man City away is a great performance.
“But I am thinking of Brentford. We may be very happy now but if we lose on Saturday everything will be bad.”
He added on BBC Tees: “From Tuesday on the training pitch the players were already thinking about Brentford.
“I didn’t hear anyone talking about the Arsenal or Manchester City games, all of them were training and thinking about this weekend.
“It was a surprise and a very good thing.”
Winger Albert Adomah told BBC Tees: “Hopefully we can show up with our Championship attitude.
“That’s the main focus, we can’t think ‘we beat Manchester City so it’s going to be a rollover’.
“It might turn out to be the other way round.”
BORO SQUAD NEWS
Boro boss Aitor Karanka has a difficult choice to make in goal when his side travel to Griffin Park.
He is likely to restore first choice goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos to the side after resting him at Manchester City – but said he has the “belief” in Tomas Mejias, who replaced the Greece international at the Etihad.
One player who will miss out is defender Daniel Ayala who is suspended so Ben Gibson is likely to step in and partner Kenneth Omeruo in the centre of the back line.
Adam Forshaw seems unlikely to make a starting debut for Boro but is more likely to find himself among the substitutes.
Winger Mustapha Carayol continued his comeback from injury by playing most of a development game in midweek but is unlikely to feature.
Middlesbrough have a strong squad with midfielder and top scorer Grant Leadbitter, who has only missed one game, the man who runs things and George Friend, another to play all but one match, a mainstay at the back.
Up front they have Patrick Bamford, linked with us at one time, who has eight goals this season and Kike, who has scored two fewer.
DID YOU KNOW?
Middlesbrough were the first club to sign a player for a four-figure fee – when they paid Sunderland £1,000 for striker Alf Common in 1905.
The England international proved to be good value for money – scoring more than 50 goals in more than 150 appearances in five years with the club.
Brentford Drinking Holes
We know three pubs are definitely open early for the Boro game.
The Globe (Windmill Rd) is 14 mins walk from Northfields tube or 4 mins on E2 bus (stops outside the station). They will be open at 9am and will be doing breakfast and lunch.
The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) is 30 secs walk from The Globe. Stuck in the middle of the houses. This is the pub the Brentford team and fans drank together in after we won promotion against Preston. They open at 9.30. Not sure about breakfast but they do lunch.
The Griffin is the third – and is mentioned below.
The pub crawl we normally recommend from Northfields Station is The Plough (Northfields Ave. Out station. Left. 1min walk). Then down to The Lord Nelson. Then The Globe. Finishing at The Griffin for a quick pre match pint as it’s practically right beside the away turnstile. The Plough is meant to be open at 10am but check.
You are no doubt aware there are four pubs around the ground. The Griffin is the best option by far. It is the closest pub to the away turnstile (30 sec walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very busy. They will open at9.30am. They don’t do breakfast but do a mean burger when Smiffy gets frying – probably around 10.30 or so this day.
The New Inn is on the other side of the ground is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and The Royal Oak (normally home fans only) are the other two options.
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river.
There is a brand new pub on Kew Bridge – Over the Ait. Maybe best saved for after the game. It’s right on the river. Very nice.
There are loads more too in the area.
All pubs are all very away-friendly. You can wear colours no problem.
On the way home, worthwhile checking out The Parcel Yard upstairs in Kings Cross station. Nice pub that.