Yakubu tipped to hit target
By Lewis Rutledge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Gareth Southgate expects Yakubu Aiyegbeni to score 20 goals this season.
Gareth Southgate has tipped Yakubu Aiyegbeni to become the first Middlesbrough player for a decade to score 20 goals in a season.
The Nigerian striker's superb finish in the 2-1 victory over Reading on Saturday took his tally for the season to 16.
The goals dried up for Yakubu in March last season and he ended on 19, but Southgate believes he is currently on top form and set to emulate Fabrizio Ravanelli's feat of ten years ago.
"Twenty goals is considered a mark for all strikers to aim for, and he's every chance given the form he is in," said Southgate.
"When he goes on a run like this he gets very confident, and at the moment he is playing with that confidence in front of goal.
"When he wasn't scoring earlier in the season we kept faith in him and had belief in him because we knew the goals would come. History and his ability told us that would happen.
"But we're also creating chances at the moment. That's the good thing, and both he and Mark (Viduka) look like they are going to score in every game."
Middlesbrough can book a place in the last eight of the FA Cup with victory over West Brom on Tuesday, but Southgate is wary of the Championship leaders after being held to a 2-2 draw at home nine days ago.
"They're in the middle of a fantastic run," he commented.
"Although they want to get out of their league they've the possibility of a home quarter-final to come, so I don't think they'll be taking their foot off the gas for us.
"They did a good job at our ground, so we realise we're going to have to be at our very best to beat them.
"As I've said, in all but name they are a Premiership team, and they're at the top of the table now and playing with a lot of confidence.
"But we've no fear. It's a challenge to go there and try to get through."