Middlesbrough v Cardiff City. Match preview

Last updated : 07 April 2012 By Michael Morris

mboroAround 450 City fans will make the long trip to the North East to see if City can pick up a win after drawing four of the last five games. It's a game that Cardiff simply cannot aford to lose.

Any hope of the play offs will become a fading hope if Middlesbrough win today. A draw will keep Cardif in contention, a win for the Bluebirds will put the matter in their own hands.

Middlesbrough have stuttered just like Cardiff. They have drawn their last four games and before that lost two. No one side has really grasped the nettle in the race for the play offs except maybe Birmingham and Blackpool who have both won three out of their last five.

The lack of wins of late has caused a stale atmosphere amongst City fans. At the start of the season we would have taken a season of stability and rebuilding, a cup final would have been seen as a huge bonus, but because we have been in contention all season to see us drop away like we have has been disappointing and has sapped some of the excitement from the hardy souls that follow the club. Many are resigned already to a season of disappointment again when if form had been the other way around and we were on a run now the place would be rocking.

City still have a chance to make the play offs and ultimately promotion but they have to up their game, starting today, and go out and win games, not just try to avoid defeat.

Early team news from Sporting Life:

Faris Haroun could boost boss Tony Mowbray's selection options as Middlesbrough prepare to host fellow play-off hopefuls Cardiff.

Haroun has been sidelined in recent weeks with a hamstring injury, but the midfielder could be ready to return to Boro's matchday squad.

Top scorer Marvin Emnes is expected to play through the pain once more as the club's medical staff continue to manage his knee condition.

Rhys Williams is still out with the ankle ligament injury he suffered against Leeds last month, while captain and fellow defender Matthew Bates is out for the season after undergoing knee ligament surgery on Monday.

Goalkeeper Danny Coyne has returned to light training as he steps up his rehabilitation from a calf strain.

Boro head into the game seventh in the Championship, outside the top six on goal difference and two points ahead of Cardiff.

But Cardiff manager Malky Mackay has no new injury or suspension worries as he prepares his team.

Mackay, whose side have drawn each of their last four matches, is unlikely to change his starting line-up at the Riverside, although he will have to decide whether to drop misfiring striker Kenny Miller.

The Scot has not netted for the Bluebirds in any of his last 14 outings, and faces stiff competition from Joe Mason, Rudy Gestede and Robert Earnshaw for a place in Mackay's XI as Cardiff look to get their play-off push back on track.

Midfielder Stephen McPhail has featured in Cardiff's last four games following his return from illness and is set to start once more this weekend.