Chelsea loan star’s injury battle offers Brentford glimmer of hope
A mainstay of the Athletic Bilbao side that reached the Europa League final under Marcelo Bielsa in 2012, a year later the defender found himself in the capital having moved to Craven Cottage on a free transfer.
At the time, the deal appeared to be a major coup for the Cottagers, with Amorebieta a Venezuela international who had also made some 195 league appearances for the Basque club.
But it would prove to be anything but, with the stopper struggling to find form for Fulham, who were in free-fall from the Premier League under Martin Jol and later Felix Magath.
Red carded in a debut season in which he made just 26 appearances, things went from bad to worse for Amorebieta in the Championship.
Injured for three months of a disastrous campaign in the second tier for the Cottagers, the 30-year-old was suddenly given a life-line with Boro moving to bring the experienced defender in on loan.
Aitor Karanka would have no doubt be familiar with Amorebieta, having played and worked in Spain as a manager prior to his arrival on Teesside.
And the defender duly rewarded his faith with a fine late goal in the first leg of Middlesbrough’s play-off semi-final against Brentford.
But there could be a problem ahead of the return leg at the Riverside: Patrick Bamford is struggling for fitness.
While Amorebieta offers defensive reinforcement and a threat going forwards, Boro could be without their main attacking threat.
Championship Player of the Year, the 21-year-old is currently struggling with a tendon problem in his ankle and is facing a race against time to be fit.
“It’s touch and go at the minute and we’ll see,” he told the official FA website.
“But I’m doing everything I can to be ready for Friday and I’d kick myself if I didn’t play and we missed out on getting through.”
Karanka could be left kicking himself too, with Bamford a major source of goals for his team this term.
The on-loan Chelsea striker is the only one of Boro’s six registered forwards to hit double figures for goals in the Championship this season, having notched up 17 already.
Only talismanic midfielder Grant Leadbitter comes close, with the Middlesbrough captain hitting 11 so far this term, though many of those have come from the penalty spot.
Brentford may have lost to Boro at Griffin Park but that game marked the first time in five meetings that the Bees managed to find the net against the Teessiders.
Amorebieta may not have endeared himself to Fulham fans but he could make himself a Middlesbrough hero in Bamford’s absence this week.
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