Middlesbrough’s 1-0 loss to Aston Villa in the Championship Play Off Semi Final first leg means the Teessiders have it all to do in the second leg. However, manager Tony Pulis says that there is ‘no pressure’ on his side.

Mile Jedinak’s first-half header separated the sides last Saturday, and Middlesbrough now have to win at Villa Park to have a chance of getting to Wembley.

Although Boro dominated the game, it was Aston Villa who had the better of the chances. Robert Snodgrass drew a brilliant save from Darren Randolph, tipping the ball onto the post. Villa also looked dangerous on the counter attack throughout.

“They’re the team that are expected to go through” Tony pulis said in his pre-match press conference. He believes there’s “no pressure” on Boro because of this reason. As Middlesbrough won’t be favourites to progress to the Play Off final at Wembley, it should allow Pulis’ side to play with freedom.

The Welshman expects this to enable Middlesbrough to express themselves, and he said he would like the Reds to play with “no inhibitions”.

There may be chops and changes with formation and personnel in the second leg, given the performance from Boro in the first. Fabio may deputise at right-back after Ryan Shotton failed to impress on the weekend. Dani Ayala could also sit out the game, as he faces a spell on the side lines after suffering an leg injury.

Middlesbrough have to win the game, and they have gone to Villa Park this season and won 2-0 in the Carabao Cup Fourth Round. But Pulis’ prediction must come true for them to stand a chance.


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Lifelong Boro fan - from the highs of watching Juninho and the Carling Cup victory, to the lows of Gordon Strachan and Lee Dong Gook