Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Injury Worries Plague Gareth

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Injury Worries Plague Gareth

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jack Pickering

Gareth Southgate's selection dilemma has been causing the Middlesbrough boss sleepless nights ahead of a season-defining double-header against the Manchester clubs.

First up are struggling City, who visit the Riverside today for a vital Premiership clash that could go some way to easing the pressure on under-fire manager Stuart Pearce.

Then, two days later, Boro travel to Old Trafford for an intriguing FA Cup quarter-final replay against United.

Southgate admits it is asking a lot for the same 11 players to successfully negotiate both games, but also recognises that his side's excellent run of form ( one defeat in 15 games ( is partly down to consistency of selection.

"It's been an interesting week, because I haven't had that much sleep," admitted the rookie manager.

"I've got to pick teams to win both games. I've got to be aware we need energy for two games and we want to be competitive in both games.

"We've got to be realistic about there being just 24 hours between the matches and I don't think everybody in the team can do that.

"We've got to use the squad, but I'm not one for making wholesale changes, we've done well through continuity. However, there's no hiding the fact that we've also got a big game on Monday."

His task may well be made easier by circumstances outside his control. Regulars Julio Arca (groin), Ayegbeni Yakubu (hamstring) and George Boateng, who has been suffering from a bug all week, face late tests, although the manager is confident at least two out of that trio will be fit.

The potential absence of Yakubu could allow South Korea striker Lee Dong-Gook to make his first start in a Boro shirt, though given a choice, the manager would have rather rested Mark Viduka, ready for Monday.

While Southgate admits he has sympathy for his good friend and former international team-mate Stuart Pearce, he does not intend to show any mercy. …

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