Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough preview
Last Updated: 15/03/19 10:46am
Aston Villa appear to have no fresh injuries ahead of Saturday's Sky Bet Championship home clash with Middlesbrough.
Boss Dean Smith looks set to have the same group of players to choose from as he did for the 3-1 win at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, Villa's third successive victory.
Henri Lansbury (hamstring) and Axel Tuanzebe (foot) seem closest to returning of those who have been sidelined but unlikely to be ready for this game. Tommy Elphick (foot), James Chester, Alan Hutton and Orjan Nyland (Achilles) are others who have been out.
Middlesbrough are awaiting the outcome of their appeal against Daniel Ayala's red card last time out. Ayala is facing a four-game suspension following his sending-off in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Preston.
That result made it back-to-back home defeats for Boro, who are winless in their last three games. Tony Pulis' men are fifth in the table, four points better off than eighth-placed Villa.
Aston Villa are looking to complete a league double over Middlesbrough for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
Including play-offs, Middlesbrough have failed to score in five consecutive league matches against Aston Villa (W0 D2 L3) since a 1-1 draw in May 2009.
Aston Villa have won all three matches in March - as many as they won in December, January and February combined in all competitions (P16 W3 D8 L5).
Middlesbrough striker Ashley Fletcher has scored three goals in his last four Championship appearances - as many as in his previous 55 league games combined.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, only Pablo Hernandez (27) has assisted more Championship goals than Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane (26).
Middlesbrough have lost their last two Championship matches when scoring first - prior to this, they'd lost just two of their previous 110 Championship games after scoring the first goal.
Aston Villa look a totally different proposition now to a couple of weeks ago, having won three games on the spin.
Middlesbrough, meanwhile, have now lost their last two and are starting to look over their shoulders a bit. Confidence will be low and they are missing a few key players, so I'll back a Villa win.
David Prutton predicts: 2-0 (9/1 with Sky Bet)