Middlesbrough v Aston Villa preview
Last Updated: 29/12/17 12:14pm
New Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis has no fresh injury or suspension concerns for the home clash with Aston Villa.
Craig Liddle was in the dugout for Boxing Day's 2-0 win at Bolton - which moved Boro seventh - but Pulis watched from the stand and visited the dressing room at half-time. This will be Pulis' first official match in charge and it remains to be seen whether he names the same starting line-up for a third consecutive game.
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George Friend came on at half-time to replace Fabio and will hope to have done enough to earn a place in the starting XI.
Villa's injury problems continued to mount on Boxing Day as leading scorer Albert Adomah was forced off. The 12-goal forward was kicked in the stomach early on in the defeat at Brentford and was withdrawn after just 18 minutes. Villa are assessing the extent of the problem but Adomah is a doubt for the game against his former club.
Villa already have captain John Terry (foot), fellow centre-half Chris Samba (hamstring), midfielder Henri Lansbury (hamstring) and strikers Gabby Agbonlahor (ankle) and Jonathan Kodjia (ankle) on the sidelines. Josh Onomah made his return from a foot injury at Griffin Park, replacing Adomah, and the on-loan Tottenham midfielder could be back in the starting line-up on Saturday.
This is the first league meeting between these sides at the Riverside since May 2009 in the Premier League - Boro are winless in four home league meetings with Villa (D1 L3).
Villa have failed to score in two matches against Middlesbrough already this season (0-0 in the Championship, 0-2 in the League Cup).
Tony Pulis has never lost a home league match against Steve Bruce (W5 D1), keeping five clean sheets in those six games.
Steve Bruce, meanwhile, has managed nine league matches at the Riverside and not recorded a single victory (W0 D1 L8) - he hasn't seen his side score in any of his last six league visits there since an Emile Heskey goal in September 2004 for Birmingham.
Since the start of last season, Britt Assombalonga has scored more goals in the Championship than any other player currently playing in the competition (26).
Of goalkeepers to have made at least 25 saves in the Championship this season, Villa's Sam Johnstone has the best save percentage (75%).
Middlesbrough made it very clear that the only target for the season was an immediate return to the Premier League, and they were far too inconsistent under Garry Monk to launch a real challenge for the top two. That's why Tony Pulis is in.
This is a heavyweight game in the Sky Bet Championship and the reverse fixture earlier in the season was an absolutely dreadful goalless draw. There should be more goals here, though, and I think it Boro will edge it.
David Prutton predicts: 2-1 (8/1 with Sky Bet)