Middlesbrough will be travelling to Villa Park for the second leg of the EFL Championship Playoffs Semi Final against Aston Villa on Tuesday evening. The Claret and Blues were successful in beating Boro in the first leg by 1 goal to nil. The Riverside Stadium saw the visitors take charge of the game early on and see out their lead with resolute defending, much to the frustration of Tony Pulis.
The Boro boss had no answer to Steve Bruce’s tactics which was definitely bolstered with John Terry back in the squad. It was Mile Jedinak who got his side the goal with a well-struck header from Jack Grealish’s corner kick. Boro tried to make a comeback late into the game by bringing on Patrick Bamford. The 24-year-old set his focus on opposition goal but failed to break through that solid Villa backline. Bruce structured his defence in such a way that it was far too steady to let anything through and Pulis will have to dig up a counter strategy for the second leg.
He himself was highly annoyed by the loss as evident from his words after the match – “We’re disappointed – we did enough not to lose, their set play was a disappointment and now Villa are in the ascendancy in the tie. We’ve got to go to Villa Park and a full house. But it’s still all to play for. I don’t think anybody could say we deserved to lose the game.”
The manager’s words might be true that Villa have the strongest squad in the entire Championship but a promotion can still not be guaranteed for them. Middlesbrough have adequate odds to upset the Villans on Tuesday night and here is how the team might line up.
Darren Randolph is expected to appear in between the sticks and take on the Villa offence.
He might get shielded by the centre-back pairing of Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson. Ryan Shotton and George Friend should look to provide cover from the wide areas.
Adam Clayton to start in the holding midfield position with Jonny Howson and Muhamed Besic to appear alongside him and form the central trio.
Adama Traore will look to wreak havoc from the right wing while Stewart Downing stretches the floor from the left. The former’s incessant running will give the Villans something to think about on Tuesday night.
Britt Assombalonga had the best scoring chance in the previous tie but unfortunately could not convert. He might get the nod again for the centre-forward role ahead of Bamford.