What a ride Aston Villa fans have been on this week. We have witnessed our side score 9 goals and concede 7 in 2 games. Some change from the Steve Bruce days eh? Up next is Tony Pulis and his Middlesbrough side at the Riverside Stadium.
Over the last two games Villa have started slow and should we concede an early goal against Middlesbrough we may find it hard to get back into the game. Pulis is known for sitting deep and pinching goals and this fixture will be no different for him.
Our away form leaves a lot to be desired this season and is the main reason we sit outside the playoff positions. We have won just 2 games on the road and lost 4 in 9 fixtures.
Middlesbrough have started the season well as you would have expected. They were one of the early favourites going into the Championship campaign. Pulis has got them playing his way and they find themselves third in the League, just two points off the top.
One defeat at home this season will make them very hard to beat. In fact, they have only conceded 10 goals this season in 19 league games. The Riverside faithful have only seen the opposition score on 3 occasions this season! Some record eh? Two of those did come against Nottingham Forest in a 0-2 defeat in October.
It is no real surprise when I tell you that they are strong in the air and will look to exploit us at set pieces. They are vulnerable though to skilful players who like to get the ball down and play. Jack Grealish could be crucial if we are to take anything from this game.
ONE TO WATCH
My one to watch is midfielder Muhamed Besic. After a successful loan spell last season, Besic rejoined Middlesbrough on a season-long loan in August. He is instrumental in everything Middlesbrough do.
The 26-year-old has contributed to 2 goals and 2 assists so far this season. Although he is better known for his tough tackling and getting stuck in. He is good on the ball also and likes to dictate the play. Sounds just like what Villa are missing in midfield, don’t you think?
Dean Smith is still monitoring John McGinn. The Scotland international played 70 minutes against Nottingham Forest until he hit the wall and come off. There have been no further effects so Smith hopes he will be fit enough to play.
There are a few unavailable, however. Alan Hutton is suspended after picking up five yellow cards. Albert Adomah still has some swelling on his ankle but is hopeful for the game next week against WBA.
Mile Jedinak is closing in on a return but Birkir Bjarnason and Henri Lansbury are a few weeks away at the moment. Keinan Davis is training once again but Smith wants him to get some game time with the u23’s first.
Middlesbrough will be without former Villa striker Rudy Gestede. Pulis described him as being a few weeks away from a return. Lewis Wing is rated 50/50. He is back in training but Pulis doesn’t want to risk his long-term health.
HEAD TO HEAD
Aston Villa and Middlesbrough have played each other 144 times in all competitions. Villa edge the head to head battle with 66 wins to Middlesbrough’s 43.
The two sides come up against each other five times last season with Middlesbrough winning just the one, in the League Cup. Villa won 2, with the other 2 finishing in draws. There were only four goals in the five games last season.
Villa won the first-ever meeting between the two sides back in 1902. They won 1-2 in the old First Division.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Predicted XI: Nyland; Elmohammady, Chester, Tuanzebe, Taylor; McGinn, Hourihane; Bolasie, Grealish, Kodjia; Abraham.
Kick Off: 17.30
TV: Sky Sports Football
Tickets: Est. 1850/2000
Odds: Middlesbrough 6/5 Aston Villa 5/2 Draw 23/10 (Skybet)