Middlesbrough V Hull at The Riverside Stadium : Match Preview
Middlesbrough V Hull - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Konstantopoulos set for Boro start
Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka looks set to hand a first start to goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos when his side take on Premier League outfit Hull in the third round of the FA Cup.
The former Hartlepool shotstopper is expected to start in goal in the absence of Jason Steele (ankle) and Shay Given (ineligible).
Midfielder Dean Whitehead returns after serving a one-match ban in Boro's last outing.
Karanka will continue to check on defenders Frazer Richardson (ankle) and Andy Halliday (hernia surgery), who are closing in on a return to fitness.
Tom Huddlestone accepts the romance of an FA Cup run may have to take a back seat to Hull's league ambitions.
The Tigers appear to be sitting pretty in the Barclays Premier League, lying 10th after the New Year fixtures, but the congested nature of the table means they still sit just six points above the bottom three.
That means there is no hint of complacency at the KC Stadium, where manager Steve Bruce continually stresses that survival is the primary aim of the season.
Having diagnosed a case of festive fixture fatigue after the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool, Bruce looks certain to preserve his key players by shuffling the pack.
Huddlestone, who has been an ever-present in the Tigers midfield since his B#5.25 summer arrival from Tottenham, is first in line for a rest and he is willing to stand down if it helps the club continue their impressive league form.
"I leave selection to the manager to be honest, but if he sees fit to rest me in the cup then I will be raring to go for the next game," he said.
"We've had three games in six days and it does take its toll. First and foremost this season is about us staying in the league. Of course, you want to do well in the cup competitions and, even though Wigan won it last year, with the squads that the likes of Manchester City or Chelsea have it is virtually impossible to win an FA Cup.
"So it's about the league position and I don't think we can get too carried away by being 10th because we're only a couple of results away from the bottom three."
Huddlestone did not feature in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season and if, as expected, he is excused duty once again in the third round of the FA Cup, it will represent a sizeable swing in fortunes.
Towards the end of his eight-year stay at White Hart Lane, he found himself more likely to be drafted in as a result of rotation.
Indeed, the return to regular first-team football has seen the 27-year-old recapture the form that once brought him Champions League football and four England caps.
For Huddlestone, it simply is a question of confidence.
"Last season it felt like it was only the cup games I was really playing in, the biggest thing here is the added 10-15 per cent of confidence, knowing you're likely to play next week unless you have a really bad game," he said.
"You might try things that if you are a bit nervous about being in the team you maybe wouldn't and when you're confident they can come off.
"I feel confident in the way I'm playing. Anybody will tell you if you that can add to your game: you maybe try a pass, or a shot, that without that confidence you wouldn't do. You would take the safer option and maybe go backwards and keep the ball. With the confidence you try things and hopefully they come off. You don't want to be overcautious with the ball. If you are not in the most confident frame of mind, sometimes you will just go side to side or backwards."
Huddlestone's midfield partner Jake Livermore is a certainty to miss the match due to the terms of his loan from Spurs, while Allan McGregor, Curtis Davies and Maynor Figueroa are also due a break.
Steve Harper is on hand to stand in for McGregor in goal, with Paul McShane, Abdoulaye Faye, Stephen Quinn and Matty Fryatt among the outfield alternatives.
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