Boateng hungry to achieve Cup dream

April 22, 2006

Middlesbrough midfielder George Boateng will treat Sunday's FA Cup clash with West Ham as if it was the final.

The sides meet at Villa Park in the last four knowing that, barring a major shock, the winners will be guaranteed UEFA Cup football next season.

Boateng, who was in the side which gave itself a fighting chance of making the UEFA Cup final with a 1-0 defeat in Bucharest on Thursday night, knows they cannot afford to pass up another glorious opportunity.

'Tomorrow is what I live for, what I dream about,' he said. 'Some people play many, many years in the Premiership and never experience an FA Cup final.

'The semi-final is a massive game. It's a game which we believe is the best way for us to be in the UEFA Cup next year just by getting to the final.

'This is our cup final. It's not a semi-final, it's a cup final for Middlesbrough, for both teams, really.

'West Ham are a good team, and the best team on the day will win.'

Striker Mark Viduka could return after undergoing intensive treatment on a thigh problem, while Chris Riggott is available following suspension, a major boost with skipper Gareth Southgate still struggling.

Whatever the result tomorrow, Boro will head into the return leg against Steaua knowing they are agonisingly close to arguably the biggest match in the club's history.

Cosmin Olaroiu's side have enjoyed notable successes away from home this season - they beat Real Betis 3-0 in Spain to go through in the earlier rounds - and they will head for Teesside knowing they too have a wonderful chance to progress.

However, Basle squandered a 3-0 aggregate lead at the Riverside Stadium in the quarter-finals and Boateng is confident another fightback is on the cards.

'Only we can give it away,' he said. 'We are delighted they did not score many goals. Mark Schwarzer made good saves and young Matthew Bates cleared the ball once from the line.

'Personally, I felt if they had scored two or three, we wouldn't have got the same luck as the previous round.

'But at 1-0 and knowing the players we will have available, the chances are that we are very much favourites to win the game.

'The confidence is in the fact we did not concede too many goals, and it's not because we feel they are a bad team - they are not.

'But we have played better opposition. Roma have good players - they were not only good on the ball, but they were athletes. The must have eaten enough spaghetti to run the whole day.

'Looking at Steaua, in the last 15, 20 minutes, they looked really tired.'