After Sheffield United blew their chance to go top, Middlesbrough could join the Sky Bet Championship promotion battle if beat Leeds United at the Riverside Stadium.
Currently seven points separate the Teesside and Yorkshire clubs entering this clash but as SpyGate continues to linger over Leeds admist a slump in form, can Boro take victory and blow the top two fight wide open?
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Middlesbrough will hand strikers, Britt Assombalonga and Jordan Hugill late fitness tests after both were forced off in midweek.
Midfielders, George Saville (ankle) and Lewis Wing (groin) will also be subject to pre match checks.
Leeds face having three key players ruled out as Pablo Hernandez (groin), Adam Forshaw and Mateusz Klich (both knee) must undergo fitness tests.
Patrick Bamford could feature against his former side whilst Izzy Brown’s involvement is uncertain.
Stuart Dallas (foot) and Gaetano Berardi (hamstring) are both sidelined for foreseeable future.
Despite suffering an embarrassing FA Cup exit in midweek at Newport County, Middlesbrough are unbeaten in six of last seven league games.
At home, the Teessiders have scored in five of their last seven home games but have taken two wins and draws apiece plus one defeat from last five at Riverside Stadium.
Leeds’ disastrous start to 2019 continues with two wins from six matches in all competitions, following a home defeat to Norwich last weekend.
On their travels, Marcelo Bielsa’s side have won just one of last three away games compared to a run of three wins from previous three beforehand.
- Middlesbrough are unbeaten in four of last five against Leeds (W2, D2, L1).
- Boro have won their last two home meetings against Leeds by a 3-0 result in both games.
- 2018 was first time since 1976 that Middlesbrough kept consecutive clean sheets against Leeds in a calendar year.
- Middlesbrough have collected five more points than the 45 which they had at this stage after 29 games last season.
- Leeds are yet to drop outside the top four league positions this season.
- Three of Leeds’ last four goals have come after 80th minute.
- Patrick Bamford scored three against Leeds when playing for Middlesbrough last season.
Both teams are definitely under pressure from their fans coming into this game, adding further intrigue as to how this game will play out.
Boro might of been poor quality in midweek but I reckon they had an eye on this game given that promotion spots could become closer with victory, whereas Leeds will want to bounce back from a sudden slump in form.
Although my head says it will be a draw, I am going to go for a Boro win because they’re the in form side and last weekend’s comeback win over West Brom will boost their belief here.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 2-1 Leeds United
Result: Middlesbrough 1-1 Leeds United