Bristol City vs Middlesbrough preview: Championship clash live on Sky Sports Football
Watch live on Sky Sports Football from midday on Saturday; kick-off is at 12.30pm
Last Updated: 31/08/19 11:23am
Bristol City face Middlesbrough in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday. Coverage gets underway live on Sky Sports Football from midday, while kick-off is at 12.30pm.
Injured Bristol City defender Tomas Kalas misses out against his former team Middlesbrough at Ashton Gate. Kalas, who played nearly 50 games for Boro in two different loan spells from 2015-16, faces between four and six weeks on the sidelines after suffering a grade-two hamstring tear.
Adam Nagy (ankle) is also ruled out after being forced off in the recent 2-0 home win against QPR, but the Hungary midfielder could return sooner than expected straight after the international break. Korey Smith (foot) and Jay Dasilva (tibia) continue to build up their fitness, while goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa followed up his return to the City squad after injury with 90 minutes for the U23s this week.
Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate has described full-back George Friend as "touch and go" for the Sky Bet Championship clash. Club captain Friend has missed the last two games with a thigh problem.
Hayden Coulson (thigh) is unavailable but should return after the international break, while fellow defender Dael Fry is in contention after stepping up his fitness this week following a hamstring problem.
After a slightly lethargic start to the season, Bristol City have rapidly moved up the gears of late and, following their shootout defeat to QPR in the Carabao Cup, won three league games on the spin. They gained revenge over Rangers with a 2-0 win at Ashton Gate, before successive away victories over Derby and Hull.
In contrast, Boro are stuttering under Jonathan Woodgate and the 1-0 win over Wigan on August 20 marked their only victory in six outings this term. They looked to be cruising against Millwall at home last weekend, but Tom Bradshaw struck to secure the Lions a share of the spoils.
Lee Johnson: "I think we love playing at home, even more so when we've had two wins on the spin away and we are looking to develop the group again and accelerate the performance to where we want it to be. The lads have shown fantastic application attitude of course which we expect but at the same time again we want to show the home fans what we're about and the new players in particular want to feel that buzz again, like they did against QPR."
Jonathan Woodgate: "It's the first few games of the season, it would be nice to go into the international break with a win. This Bristol team are a good side, they've been together for a few years now, especially with their manager, he knows what he's doing.
"They play good football, they like to be expansive and they play with pace when they break. It will be a really good test for us, and hopefully we come back with the three points."
Talking point - Woodgate's difficult start at Boro
It hasn't been the easiest start to managerial life for Jonathan Woodgate. He has won just once so far in his first five games - and even that was a nervy 1-0 win over a Wigan side that are notoriously terrible on the road.
Woodgate, however, has been tasked with the unenviable responsibility of making Boro's style of play more pleasing on the eye following the era of Tony Pulis, and it is never simple to try and improve entertainment and results at the same time.
Bristol City have won six of their last eight league games against Middlesbrough (W6 D0 L2).
None of the last eight league meetings between Bristol City and Middlesbrough at Ashton Gate have ended as a draw - both sides have four wins apiece in that time.
Bristol City have won their last three league games, their longest winning run since a seven-match streak between December 2018 and February 2019.
Jonathan Woodgate is the first permanent Middlesbrough manager to pick up just one victory in his first five league games in charge since Aitor Karanka in November 2013.
Britt Assombalonga has scored 99 goals in the Football League (excluding play-offs), scoring more times for Middlesbrough than any other side (31).
Bristol City's Benik Afobe has netted three goals in his last three league appearances, as many as he'd bagged in his previous 27.
David Prutton's prediction
I saw Bristol City look pretty flat in their opening game against Leeds and did worry for them a little, but since then they have gone from strength to strength and may have found a way to get the best out of Benik Afobe up front.
Middlesbrough haven't had the best start under Jonathan Woodgate, but they need to give him time if he is going to be able to revamp their style of play. Bristol City should be too good here, though.
David Prutton predicts: 2-0 (17/2 with Sky Bet)