Over the last week or so I have been collecting some opinion from the Smoggies in the currently buoyant part of Tyneside, Middlesbrough. Optimism isn’t normally something that emits from this normally drab and uninspiring part of country but I have noticed a turn of events in the last few months. Ever since the arrival of Mr Southgate things have slowly but surely started to pickup for our friends in the north.

An almost Arsene Wengeresque outlook and faith in youth is starting to bare fruit for the much maligned Gareth. Currently home to one of the youngest squads in the EPL Boro are showing a few people this term that youth can pull you through if you give them a chance and with the likes of Hoyte, Digard, Downing, Turnbull and Wheater now firmly established in the 1st Team maybe Gareth’s vision will see his group of youth maintain a Top 10 finish.

Southgate however still seems to have that etched look of despair on his face that he had when he missed that now infamous penalty in Euro 96 but he must be happy with the way things have panned out for his lads so far this season.

One thing I will say about Boro fans is they do not have delusions of grandeur they can see that Southgate is doing a good job on a relatively small budget and they have high hopes for the young players playing their trade currently at The Riverside. I of course could be getting the wrong end of the stick and the cause of such a cheerful outlook is in fact the current situation over in Geordieland with their bitter rivals current paying protection to the Cockney Mafia whilst languishing 3rd from bottom.

When quizzed on who they believe will cause us some problems this weekend the unanimous answer was Stewart Downing. The left winger has always been The Golden Boy in Smogland and he is the one they believe could split the steely defence at SW6. They have also drawn attention to their record signing Alves and his on/off strike partner Mido. Alves has a reputation of turning up when playing against the better teams in the league and Mido has been on very good form this season culminating in a great strike recently against The Bin Dippers. Whether these lads will be the answer to Middlesbrough’s prayers this weekend is yet to be seen.

On the injury front they have a few concerns. Talisman Sanli Tuncay is unlikely to feature is this fixture as he is returning after a 8 week spell on the sidelines nursing a knee injury picked up in an all too familiar International. Robert Huth is another player that is unlikely to feature this weekend as he has also recently had a spell on the sidelines and with the homicidal hatchet man Pogatetz being suspended after almost removing the right leg of Man United’s sprightly Brazilian Possebon, Boro could find themselves with some issues at the back.

Whenever someone from the Big 4 travels away the opposition fans have a few players that they would like to see on the sidelines. The player they seem to fear the most is none other than Joe Cole. They feel that Joe’s trickery and ability to burst into the box will be key for Chelsea. I expect they will be happy with the news that Joe may not even feature in this game due to one in a long list of injuries currently affecting us.

Never ones to back down from a challenge and bringing up some past victories against the bigger teams Middlesbrough have some optimism going into this game. The main belief is that Boro could not only get a draw but they could also sneak a 2-1 victory.

I would like to thank the lads over at Smogland.com for answering our questions.