Boro are short of players all over the park, particularly in attack. Leroy Lita is suspended, Dave Kitson and Caleb Folan have returned to Stoke and Hull, respectively, and Marvin Emnes and Jeremie Aliadiere have injuries. Marcus Bent has extended his loan spell from Birmingham and is likely to be partnered up front by academy graduate Jonathan Franks.
In defence they are equally short of bodies. Sean St.Ledger has gone back to Preston, Seb Hines is hurt, and David Wheater and Emanuel Pogatetz are both doubtful. Midfielder Didier Digard is also unfit, and Villa loanee Isaiah Osbourne cup-tied. Even star man, winger Adam Johnson, faces a late fitness test.
We have our fair share of absentees, too. Captain Kolo Toure and striker Emanuel Adebayor have flown to Africa. Joleon Lescott, Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha will be missing until February. Stephen Ireland has a hamstring injury, Roque Santa Cruz a calf strain, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is still struggling to overcome an ankle knock.
I expect Roberto Mancini will go with as strong a side as possible, and in truth he hasn't got much choice, having only around twelve fit and available senior players to choose from. Javi Garrido will replace Sylvinho, which i assume will see Micah Richards move into central defence. I think we'll see Tevez, Robinho and Bellamy all start, most probably in a 4-4-2 judging by our improved performance after Monday's tinkering.
The choice of Gordon Strachan as the man to replace sacked former England defender Gareth Southgate seems to have split supporters to say the least. Early results haven't been good, just two wins in his first ten games, yet Boro sit only five points off a play-off place, and a big result on Saturday could well prove the kick up the backside they need to push on.
They'll probably line up in a straightforward 4-4-2. Given the late fitness tests it's difficult to say who will feature in their back four, but should Wheater, Riggott or Pogatetz not make it then Justin Hoyte could come in, Rhys Williams move back to his natural position, or Andrew Taylor earn only his fourth start of the season at left-back. O'Neill, Arca and Bent provide significant experience.
Adam Johnson has quite understandably been attracting the attention of Premier League scouts, and may see this as a good chance to put himself further into the shop window. At home on either flank, the England u21 international has already bagged himself ten goals, and the likes of Spurs and Villa are said to be keeping tabs on him. Given their lack of firepower he's undoubtedly the dangerman, and well capable of giving Garrido, Zabaleta or Richards a run for their money.
The fact that Boro are out of form, their manager under pressure, and they have half of their squad missing will give ammo to the pessimists. The ingredients are certainly their for an upset, and given our record in the cups in recent seasons it wouldn't come as a complete surprise, but we should have enough. If we demonstrate anything like the sublime counter-attacking football we played in spells at Wolves then we ought to progress, but it will by no means be a case of simply turning up, as i'm sure Mancini will know.
Whatever happens, the very least we can hope for is that our defence is a bit tighter than it was during our last visit to the Riverside!
Boro: Coyne, McMahon, Taylor, Riggott, Wheater, Williams, Johnson, O'Neill, Franks, Bent, Arca
City: Given, Zabaleta, Garrido, Richards, Kompany, de Jong, Petrov, Barry, Tevez, Bellamy, Robinho
Prediction: Boro 0 City 2