TEN months on from taking Premier League Sunderland to an FA Cup replay and extra-time, Scott McDonald believes Middlesbrough are now better placed to topple the Black Cats.
The pair meet at the Stadium of Light this evening in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup, their previous cup encounter at the Riverside seeing the visitors edge a 2-1 win.
McDonald was Boro’s weekend goal hero with a double blast in the 2-1 come-from-behind win against Bolton Wanderers. And the Aussie now has the Black Cats within his sights.
“We’re all looking forward to the big derby now and a chance to beat the Mackems,” he said.
“We went there last season in the cup and gave them a scare and we should have won the game – and for me, we’re a better team now. The dynamics of the team is very different.
“We’ve got attacking options now.
“You look around the changing room and you see players who can create chances and players who can score.
“I’m sure we can be a threat to them. We’re going there confident and with real momentum.”
Boro are up to third in the Championship following their weekend triumph, while Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland have just one win to their name in the top flight. But McDonald knows the Wearsiders will provide tough opposition.
“They will be strong”, he said. “Martin O’Neill has won this cup with Leicester and he will see this as a trophy they have a chance in.
“With respect, the Premier League is not really a competition they can win. They will look at this and think it is their best bet.
“And it is a derby game too so the fans there will demand victory. I expect he will put out his best team and go for it. It’ll be tough.”
Boro boss Tony Mowbray is considering swapping his team around in their fourth game in 10 days.
“We are going to change the team around and give some of them a breather,” he said.
“We are trying to get a balance between trying to make sure we don’t pick up any injuries in another intense game and doing well, so we are going to put a team out that will be very competitive and try and get a result.”
Mowbray will run the rule over Jonathan Woodgate and Marvin Emnes. Defender Woodgate has missed the last two games with a thigh injury while Emnes limped out of Saturday’s 2-1 win over Bolton with a hamstring problem, and both men will face late fitness tests.
Merouane Zemmama is back in training having recovered from a hamstring problem and he is expected to be in the squad.
There is no movement on the remainder of Boro’s injured contingent, with Luke Williams (hip), Kevin Thomson (calf), Rhys Williams (ankle), Lukas Jutkiewicz, Mustafa Carayol and Curtis Main (all knee) still occupying the treatment room.