Aston Villa will welcome Tony Pulis and his Middlesbrough side to Villa Park today in the Championship. Dean Smith’s men will be hoping they can keep up the feel-good factor and build on their three wins in a row.
March has already been a much improved month compared to February for Villa. We have 9 points from a possible 9. We picked up just 3 from a possible 15 last month. The Jack Grealish effect eh?
The playoff charge is well and truly back on. But we must not get carried away. As Smith stated himself, we have had a few false dawns already this season.
Villa currently sits 8th on 54 points in the Championship. Middlesbrough are 5th on 58. A win for Villa could really close the cap but a defeat could make it one step too far.
Middlesbrough are your classic Pulis side. I don’t think many ‘Boro fans will tell you that they are good to watch. However, they are in the playoff positions so have every chance of getting promoted still.
Middlesbrough’s away form is not to be sniffed at. They have picked up 31 points on the road so far this season. Only 3 sides have picked up more points. In fact, there has not been a home winner between Villa and Middlesbrough since the 2004/05 season.
The away side are not scared to have a shot. They average the 5th most shots per game (13.8) in the Championship. On top of that, they win 52.9% of Ariel duels – the 4th most in the division.
Anwar El Ghazi is available despite limping off against Nottingham Forest. His arm had got trodden on and he was in a lot of pain but he seems to be fine now.
Axel Tuanzebe and Henri Lansbury are back training and going through their own ‘mini pre-season’. Smith expects them both to be available for Blackburn after the international break.
James Chester and Alan Hutton are both in light rehab and Villa are hopeful they will return to training in the next few weeks.
Daniel Ayala will be available for Middlesbrough. Their captain was sent off against Preston in mid-week but the decision has been overturned. Pulis has stated he will look to ‘freshen’ things up a little as the squad looks tired.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
PREDICTED XI: Steer; Elmohammady, Hause, Mings, Taylor; Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish; Green, El Ghazi; Abraham.
Kick Off: 15.00
TV: AVTV (Outside the Uk)
Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham
Tickets: Estimated 37,000. Tickets available here.