Jack Seargent is a writer for SB Nation, and a fan of Middlesbrough. He was kind enough to answer our queries before this match.
Cottagers Confidential: Middlesbrough came about as close to promotion as you can get last year. How disappointing was the end of the season last year and how does that affect the mindset of the supporters this year?
Jack Seargent: Losing the playoff final was a very tough blow. I had the misfortune of being at Wembley for the defeat, and have never felt so deflated as I did at the final whistle. However, it was probably best for our collective mental health that Boro were totally outclassed on the day: I'm certain it must be even harder to take when you're beaten on penalties. The immediate concern was on the future of the the team: manager Aitor Karanka seemed a little non-committal, and the failure to win promotion meant we were certain to lose a handful of our key players, like Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford. That meant that for all concerned, we absolutely had to keep things together and hit the ground running this season. Happily, we have, and it's now looking like we're going to be in the promotion race for the long haul once again. The fans seem as optimistic as ever, and actually I think we're in a much stronger position both technically and mentally than we were this time last year.
CC: The match against Fulham last year was a huge win for Fulham and a devastating loss for you. It also had one of the weirdest games I've ever witnessed. Will the memory of that way influence the way you look at this game?
JS: Another game I'll remember for almost all the wrong reasons! Though, in truth, I think most of us who were at that game look back on it with a perverse fondness, safe in the knowledge that it was eventually meaningless in determining who went up. I don't think it should change our mindset too much, though we'll no doubt be sure to boo one-time Boro transfer target Ross McCormack with as much relish as ever, and lick our lips at the prospect of facing what seemed like quite a shaky defence. Oh, and I don't think you'll be seeing Dimi Konstantopoulos venturing too far from his goal this time...
CC: Fernando Amorebieta was a divisive figure at Fulham. Many fans hated him whereas I liked him and just thought he was misused as a left back. He'll probably end up being most remembered by the red cards he's received. How is he playing for you this year and where is he playing?
JS: I was initially sceptical about the signing of Amorebieta, though amazingly Aitor Karanka knew him from playing alongside him at Athletic Bilbao, so I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. And, to his credit, he's been a more than serviceable acquisition, as well as almost acquiring cult hero status with a rare goal in last season's playoff semi final against Brentford. He's started both of Boro's last league games as a centre-back, and though the defeat to Reading before the international break was disappointing, he contributed to a clean sheet in a win over Leeds United. I've been as impressed with his composure on the ball as much as his positioning; Aitor Karanka invariably likes Boro to play the ball out of defence (sometimes to Boro's detriment), and Amorebieta's passing range comes in very useful indeed. It's a pity he'll be ineligible for Saturday's game.
CC: Predicted lineup and score?
JS: Lineup prediction (4-2-3-1): Dimi Konstantopoulos; George Friend, Ben Gibson, Daniel Ayala, Tomáš Kalas; Grant Leadbitter, Adam Clayton; Stewart Downing, Diego Fabbrini, Cristhian Stuani; David Nugent.
I'm a little concerned that we won't be as fluid as normal with the likes of Albert Adomah and Cristhian Stuani having had a long way to travel for international duty, but I think we'll still have enough. 2-1 Boro.