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Ledley Points The Way

Ledley King believes the nature of the fixture list would make a three-point return from the trip to Middlesbrough all the more valuable.

Ledley King believes the nature of the fixture list would make a three-point return from the trip to Middlesbrough all the more valuable.The other contenders for UEFA Cup combat next term all have three games remaining as opposed to our four, with Everton playing host to Manchester United, Bolton away at Chelsea, Reading at home to Newcastle and Portsmouth to Liverpool this weekend.

The skipper made his comeback in the UEFA Cup quarter-final second leg against Sevilla then missed out on the trip to Wigan before resuming his central defensive partnership with Michael Dawson in the home encounter with Arsenal last weekend.

After being absent since the end of December, slotting back into the side for the meetings with Sevilla and Arsenal was a big ask and the England international now leads the team into the challenge of securing sufficient points from our remaining four games - starting at Middlesbrough on Saturday - to guarantee a UEFA Cup spot via a top seven Premiership place.

"They were two tough games, two draws that bought a mixed bag of emotions. We need to go to Middlesbrough and get the win, the way the league is going it is going to be very tight up there and we know if we can get three points, with the fixtures the teams around us have, it would be a big three for us.

"It is always a tough game, it is a good stadium and they will get a fair crowd in there. On their day they can cause problems for any team, the two up front in particular [Viduka and Yakubu] can be the best pairing in the league when on song.

"They played very well against Man Utd and will be confident about their chances, but if we can keep the front two quiet we will have every reason to be confident over ours," continued Ledley, who knows our chances of success at the Riverside will be increased if the team can tighten up in the defending of set pieces which have proved troublesome this term.

"It has been a downfall for us this season and is something we have looked at and worked on in training. Set pieces is one of those things that can go against you at any time - like if someone jumps higher than someone else! Or if someone gets a march on the defender the ball can end up in the back of the net.

"It has happened too many times against us this season and it is something we need to keep working at to prevent any repeats."