Cottagers Confidential: This is your first year back in the Premier League. Like most new clubs to the division, your goal has to be to keep your spot. That being said, how seriously do you expect the team to take the League Cup?
Jack Sargeant: Honestly, probably not too seriously at all. Middlesbrough do have a track record in the League Cup -- when we won it back in 2004, it was our first ever major tournament success -- but as you suggest, when you've got relegation to avoid, there can be little room for romanticism. But just because the coach won't take it seriously doesn't mean the players won't: one of the hidden benefits of squad rotation is that the players that will start are sure to be looking to prove their worth to the man on the bench. Boro will certainly be hoping that proves true on Wednesday.
CC: Middlesbrough had a historically good defense last year. Have they done anything to improve that? Are there any signs that the defense could be worse?
JS: Boro's impressive defensive record was certainly helped by having two very fine centre-halves at the heart of the defence in Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson. But the real key to success at the back was the fact that it was a team effort, with everyone working in tandem to squeeze the space out of the opponent, including the wingers and attacking midfielder. Unless you're able to counter-attack very quickly, you're once again going to come up against a 4-2-3-1 whose biggest advantage remains its sheer midfield sturdiness.
CC: What changes should Fulham fans expect versus the squad we saw last year? Any major acquisitions? Any big departures?
JS: Happily Boro are regarded as having done some of the very best transfer business of anyone in the Premier League. The most expensive acquisition has been Dutch midfield anchorman Marten de Roon, though he picked up an injury in the season-opening draw with Stoke and won't feature here. However, you could well see two other new faces make their starting debuts, with former Ajax wonderkid Viktor Fischer and ex-Manchester United and Cardiff full-back Fábio likely to be given some game time in the cup. Goalkeepers Victor Valdés and Brad Guzan are also new acquisitions, though I've a hunch Karanka may give the hero of the promotion season Dimi Konstantopoulos some time while he can.
CC: Predicted Lineup and Score?
JS: Lineup prediction (4-2-3-1): Dimi Konstantopoulos; Alex Baptiste, Dael Fry, Ben Gibson, Fábio; Julien de Sart, Adam Forshaw; Albert Adomah, David Nugent, Viktor Fischer; Jordan Rhodes.
Scoreline: A tight 1-1 with one of the two sides to win on penalties. I'm contractually obliged to say Boro, so I'll go with that.