TONY Mowbray has bemoaned a lack of “firepower” ahead of tonight’s derby showdown with Sunderland – but the Middlesbrough boss believes his players have what it takes to upset the odds.
Martin O’Neill’s Black Cats are the country’s in-form team and they prepared for the FA Cup fourth round replay with a 1-0 win at Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mowbray’s Boro were toiling their way towards a home stalemate with Crystal Palace and were left to count the cost of hamstring injuries to top goalscorer Marvin Emnes and Belgian playmaker Faris Haroun.
Australian frontman Scott McDonald (knee) is also missing, as is midfielder Barry Robson (hand), the scorer of Boro’s goal in the 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light.
And Mowbray admits his offensive options are limited.
“We haven’t had too many first-team players out there training these past couple of days,” he said.
“There’s potentially up to five or six changes from the team which played the first game.
“But we’ll have a team which will be competitive and look to cause them problems.
“I think, though, we’re lacking a bit of firepower.
“If you think at Sunderland we had three – Marvin Emnes, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Scott McDonald – and it was a pretty attacking line-up with a lot of people who can score goals. All of a sudden now we have that threat missing.
“And at this moment the balance of the team isn’t quite right for us.”
January signing Jutkiewicz could be joined in attack by 19-year-old Curtis Main, the former Darlington youngster.
And Mowbray added: “I think Curtis helps us in that respect (needing attacking options) and he very much comes into the equation now. It depends on how brave we’re going to be in picking the team – do we pick two strikers or three?”
Boro’s promotion bid has stuttered in recent weeks and they are now without a win in the Championship since Boxing Day.
“We have to look at the bigger picture but we will probably pick our strongest team available – although that won’t mean risking players if it then means they’re going to be out for six weeks,” said Mowbray when pressed on the priorities of his side.
“We have other objectives other than a good cup run.
“We could probably do without it, but it is a local derby and we’ll be giving it our best shot because pride is at stake. We have a responsibility to have a good go.
“And the supporters who come along will hopefully enjoy the excitement of the game. Derby games can be great levellers – as we saw last Sunday – and that’s why we have to come out fighting.”