Ninth-placed Middlesbrough host 18th-placed Reading at the Riverside on Saturday afternoon. Middlesbrough hope to keep pace with the top six, as they remain six points outside of the play-off picture. Whereas Reading sit just six points above the drop zone.
Both teams suffered narrow defeats to teams relatively close to them in the table last weekend. Middlesbrough lost away at Norwich after going down to ten men. While Reading were beaten 2-0 at home by Millwall following two goals in the last 20 minutes.
Middlesbrough had Rudy Gestede’s red card rescinded following an official appeal, and the Teessiders will be buoyed by the decision. It will be interesting to see which striker Tony Pulis decides to choose to lead the line, given that no forwards have scored under the Welshman’s guidance since he began managing the side.
With Gestede available for selection, Pulis has three strikers at his disposal. Patrick Bamford and Britt Assombalonga will provide the competition.
Interestingly, Middlesbrough are yet to win or even score at home under Pulis in the league since he took over on Boxing Day. The North-East side will need to pick up points here in order to make up ground on the play-off pack.
The two sides have an identical record in their last six games. Winning two, drawing one and losing three does not look good for a side hoping to secure play-offs, but looks more promising for Reading, a side flirting with relegation.
Reading’s are unbeaten away from home in their last eight games. They have not lost on the road since Boxing Day. Given Middlesbrough’s wretched home form, Reading will certainly fancy their chances.
The Royals will be without new signing Tommy Elphick, who only joined in January. The former-Bournemouth and Aston Villa defender had to be substituted due to a knee injury in the defeat to Millwall in the first-half. Elphick is expected to be out for the next six weeks.
His replacement last Saturday was Tyler Blackett, who also had to be substituted later in the game, but it is unsure whether the change was tactical or due to an injury.