The same ground and the same fixture that saw the introduction to English football of Middlesbrough‘s Brazilian star Juninho could today witness the debut of another mercurial talent. Almost twenty years after the Boro star made his bow, heralding a new era on Teesside, Leeds United‘s exciting new signing Jordan Botaka might just be about to unleash his own brand of magic on the Championship – in the most challenging of circumstances.
Two decades back, Juninho stepped out against Leeds to introduce himself to an adoring Riverside Stadium. This lunchtime, Congo international Botaka is in line for a first United appearance, backed by the Whites’ travelling army and scrutinised by the critical eye of Sky Sports live coverage. The key to the tricky wide man’s first outing is the mindset of off-colour prodigy Sam Byram, United’s defender-turned-winger, who is currently the subject of much speculation and debate – not to mention the withering attack launched on him this week by Leeds’s outspoken owner Massimo Cellino.
Byram, such a hot prospect only two years ago, has reportedly turned down a new deal at Elland Road. His form over the last eighteen months has been patchy as he’s made a troubled comeback from injury. Now it would appear that his heart and soul may be elsewhere as transfer speculation has him linked with some of England’s major clubs, as well as Sunderland. In circumstances like that, his inclusion against a rampant Boro would be a risky business for United coach Uwe Rösler. It’ll have to be all hands at the pumps for Leeds at the Riverside today, just to avoid being swamped.
And yet this has been traditionally a happy hunting ground for United since that memorable occasion of Juninho’s first game in England. A one-all draw on that occasion was distinctly respectable, but in the intervening period there have been rich pickings here for the Yorkshire giants. Only last season, the Whites turned up, struck early through Alex Mowatt, and held on grimly in the face of a Smoggies onslaught to depart triumphant.
A win today would be in the face of similarly daunting odds. Boro are on a roll, win after win making them stand-out performers in the depressed environment of football’s far north-east. Middlesbrough will be confident of beating a Leeds side conceivably unsettled by Cellino’s latest outburst – and this alone could make the case for the benching of Byram. Gaetano Berardi is doing a fine job at right-back, and Botaka could be the wing presence United have needed to bring out the very best of Chris Wood. The case for change is compelling – and if form is the deciding factor, Byram could hardly complain about being “rested”.
Twenty years back, Junino made his mark, but Leeds were the happier side as they salvaged a draw. Today could be the start of another player’s story as Jordan Botaka waits on the wing – and another draw would be another highly worthy result.
Nice thought Rob but I don’t see it.
Away to Boro = another midfield player like Kalvin Phillips. 4 – 5 – 1 ??
If we take the cowardy-custard approach 😉 I’m sure I heard Rosler preaching attack earlier this week…
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I wouldn’t sit back and defend today. Middlesbrough have too many on fire goal scorers at the moment. I feel that would be inviting on disaster. Leed’s should go on the offensive and try and nick an early goal like last year. And then see how it play’s out.
Drop Byram because Middlesbrough will know how to play against him, especially with where his head is right now. Botaka on the other hand might just confuse and surprise them.
Sounds like sense to me.
Ever the optimist rob , I’m going for Leeds to frustrate them in midfield and our wing play to counter with lighting speed , woods the lone striker to get a brace 2-1 Leeds
hoping for our “Indian sign” to shine again over boro and have a feeling that after being under the cosh for most of the match, we will do it again. Bottom line is so far weve had one good game-against Derby, were due another! Thing that’s getting me down at the moment is that after the unfortunate departure of Adam Pearson, we have our idiotic owner shouting his mouth off again. Has he learnt nothing from AP- no nothing! What possible benefit can a team get from the owner slagging of one of its players? Its a shame that there will be no one at the club now who will have the balls to tell him to shut it.
Would love to see Botaka as he actually wants to play for us but as long as we don’t play Wootton, I’ll be happy.
If we sit back and try to stifle them we will be murdered. According to all the pundits and media we are going to be chicken fodder, well bring it on, many a team has come unstuck and we have nothing to be afraid of. Botaka could well be the spark to light the fuse. As for Byram? I like the lad but I’m afraid he’s finished as a Leeds player.
Any thing less than a win today will be a sin. (Proverbs 46)
Just watched the game, a couple things come to mind. 1 this team is hopeless when it comes to winning a corner they lost 100% of the corners in the air today, I mean win the odd ball in the air why don’t you. 2, when it comes to the final third of the pitch the forwards and attacking midfield players are well below average. Its easy to see why this team struggles scoring goals, so little imagination and talent equals a team destined to finished somewhere around 15-18 in the table when the dust settles.
Yes this team used to be a big club, right now they are just another very average team stuck in the past.
Feel really bad for the fans that paid good money to see this game live, it was the men against the boys today. 90 minutes of play and almost 0 chances. Should have mailed in the 3 points and saved everyone the time.
This team has 0 chance of going to the Premier league, somehow they have to find a player that can get you goals out of nothing, they also need to find players that can win the odd header when they get a corner. Then at least they might be worth following.