Middlesbrough vs Preston
Date: 26th August 2017
Kickoff: 15:00 UK/16:00 CET
Venue: The Riverside Stadium
Middlesbrough host Preston North End on Saturday and will be looking to extend their unbeaten home run to four (including cup).
Despite it being early in the season, both teams will already have an eye on the table. Middlesbrough, the league favourites are six points off the top and will want to close the gap on league leaders Cardiff with a win over Preston.
Preston, on the other hand, are currently in 7th place and a win for them could see them move into a playoff spot.
Middlesbrough suffered a defeat last time out in the Championship. They lost 2-1 away to Nottingham Forest in what was a very frustrating game. Especially for record signing Britt Assombalonga who missed several big chances that could have seen Middlesbrough walk away with at least a point.
Assombalonga’s failings in front of goal last week were very uncharacteristic of the striker and were perhaps more to do with him returning to his old club, rather than a true reflection of his ability.
Middlesbrough have already bounced back from their defeat to Forest however. They beat Scunthorpe United 3-0 in a very confident display in the League Cup on Tuesday.
During that game, fringe players like Adama Traore, Fabio and Lewis Baker all put in excellent displays with the later two both scoring. This will give Monk something to ponder when he chooses Boro’s team on Saturday and we could well see a few changes to the Middlesbrough side that lost to Forest.
Injury news: Martin Braithwaite will miss the game with a hamstring injury.
Preston North End finished 11th in the Championship last year, much higher than anyone expected. As a result, they lost their manager Simon Grayson to Sunderland along with start player Aiden McGeady.
However, despite losing both a top manager and a top player over the summer Preston look a quality side this season. They have already picked up two huge wins this season against two of last season’s playoff teams. They beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on the opening day of the Championship season and in their most recent Championship game they beat Reading 1-0.
Preston are one of the lowest spenders in the Championship this year. As opposed to their opponents this week who are the highest. But despite the lack of money spent, Ben Pearson feels Preston are underestimated in the league and have a really good chance this year. He stated in a recent interview that ‘Even without taking money into consideration it’s about believing in our ability because we are good enough and if we continue playing as we are – and we keep all players fit – then we’ve got a really good chance of doing something this year’.
After beating two of last year’s top teams already it is hard to disagree with Pearson. However, Preston may be about to face their toughest test this season when they travel to Boro.
Injury news: Paul Gallagher suffered a concussion on August 15 and remains a doubt for the Boro game. Declan Rudd is back in training but is also a doubt for Saturday’s game. Callum Woods and John Welsh played a behind closed doors game early this week and could feature on Saturday.
Head to head
Middlesbrough and Preston have played each other a total of 94 times. Middlesbrough have won 43, Preston 29 and there have been 22 draws.
Last time the two sides met was in April 2016 in the Championship. Middlesbrough won 1-0 with Albert Adomah the scorer.
Preston have not beaten Middlesbrough since 1987. They won 1-0 in the FA Cup.
Middlesbrough XI: Randolph, Christie, Gibson, Fry, Friend, Clayton, Baker, Howson, Gestede, Assombalonga, Bamford.
Preston XI: Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington, Davies, Earl, Pearson, Johnson, Maguire, Harrop, Barkhuizen, Hugill.
Recent league form
Middlesbrough: L W W L
Preston: W D L W
Neither team is that well known for their goal scoring ability. Preston have scored just two goals this season in four games. While Middlesbrough are still suffering in places from Aitor Karanka’s extremely defensive regime. So, this game is likely to be very low scoring.
Given that Boro are unbeaten at home and haven’t conceded there this season, combined with Preston scoring very little and the fact they have several injuries, Middlesbrough may just scrape a win out of this. Either way, it will be a very tight game.
Final score prediction: 1-0 Middlesbrough