Graham in contention for Boro

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The Independent Football

Danny Graham gave up his career as a window fitter to join the youth squad at Middlesbrough two years ago. Tonight the 19-year-old striker is in contention to start what his manager, Steve McClaren, yesterday described as "possibly the biggest game in the club's history", against Sporting Lisbon in the home leg of Boro's last-16 Uefa Cup tie.

Danny Graham gave up his career as a window fitter to join the youth squad at Middlesbrough two years ago. Tonight the 19-year-old striker is in contention to start what his manager, Steve McClaren, yesterday described as "possibly the biggest game in the club's history", against Sporting Lisbon in the home leg of Boro's last-16 Uefa Cup tie.

"With 10 senior players out it's going to be quite a young team and one of the youngest benches we've ever had," McClaren said. "Danny has shown his pedigree when he's come on for us and who knows? He could play."

If Graham starts, he will do so alongside Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink but in a team short on form and confidence. Although, in their first season in Europe, Boro have won all four home games in the Uefa Cup to date, but have only one win in their last nine Premiership games. Last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa meant they dropped out of the top-flight's top six for the first time since October.

"We looked flat and are in need of freshening up," McClaren said yesterday.

Sporting have not lost any of their four away games in the Uefa Cup this season - winning two and drawing two, including one against Newcastle United in the group stage - but their own recent domestic form has been patchy.

McClaren said his side will be motivated tonight to turn their fortunes round. "This is a good chance to put things right," he said. Sporting, however, may be motivated by the knowledge that the Uefa Cup final, on 18 May, will be in their own Jose Alvalade Stadium.

Middlesbrough (possible 4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Quedrue; Morrison, Doriva, Zenden, Downing; Hasselbaink, Graham.

Sporting Lisbon (possible 3-5-2): Ricardo; Hugo, Beto, Enakarhire; Rogerio, Rochemback, Martins, Barbosa, Paito; Liedson, Sa Pinto.

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