Saturday, December 15, 2018

Prediction: Middlesbrough vs Aston Villa

Verdict: 1-1 correct score

Best Odds: 9/2

Bookmaker: Bet 365

Middlesbrough face Aston Villa in the Championship play-off semi-final on Saturday evening. We make our prediction on the first-leg clash from the Riverside.

Middlesbrough

After they were tipped as automatic promotion candidates pre-season, Middlesbrough haven’t exactly set the division alight. A slow start to the campaign meant Garry Monk’s team were sitting ninth in the league at Christmas, form which ultimately led him to the sack. Tony Pulis was the man identified to stop the rot, and results did improve after his appointment. Nine wins from their last 13 matches meant they just about made it into the playoffs, just three points ahead of 7th placed Preston. However, it’s this form that might just prove to be the difference in these tense play-off matches. Britt Assombalonga is Boro’s main attacking threat, and having scored two in his last three matches, he’s now moved onto 15 for the season. The Riverside has been somewhat of a fortress this campaign, and Pulis’ men have won four of their previous five matches there, with two clean sheets in the process. A tight and organised approach will be the main priority for the North-East club and it could result in a low-scoring affair.

Team News

Birkir Bjarnason (calf), Axel Tuanzebe (ankle), and Neil Taylor (hamstring) are all doubts.

Aston Villa

Like Middlesbrough, Aston Villa set their sights on automatic promotion at the start of the season. However, a slow start meant they were in the relegation zone after just three matches. Results soon improved though, and they haven’t been out of the top six since December 31. Only two of Villa’s 11 defeats have come at Villa Park, which underlines the importance of this match at the Riverside on Saturday. By avoiding a loss, Steve Bruce’s men will give themselves a great chance of making it to Wembley. Albert Adomah has been in great form this campaign, and his 14 league goals have been influential in their top-six finish. However, the Villians seem to have lost their firepower at the wrong stage of the season. They have only scored more than once in one of their last six matches, meaning they may try to keep it tight in the first leg before taking full advantage of their return fixture at Villa Park.

Team News

Ex-Villa player and target man Rudy Gestede is still out with an ankle injury, so it will be between Patrick Bamford and Britt Assombalonga who starts up top.

Key Factors to Consider

  • These two sides met three times in all competitions this season, with each side winning once on the road (D1)
  • The home team has failed to win in any of the last 11 matches between both teams
  • Aston Villa have lost just one of their last eight away games against Middlesbrough (W4 D1)
  • The team to finish in fourth place have won the play-offs in two of the last four seasons, which is any many as the previous 22 campaigns combined
  • Boro have lost just two of their last 14 league games (W8 D4), while Aston Villa have won once in their last five on the road (D1 L3)

Conclusion

This will very likely be a nervy encounter with chances at a premium. The onus will be on Middlesbrough to get a positive result, but Bruce’s men will be more than happy taking a draw back to Villa Park.

Verdict: 1-1 correct score

Best Odds: 9/2

Bookmaker: Bet 365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Randall


Ash is a freelance football writer who lives, breathes and dreams the beautiful game. A lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers season ticket holder, if he isn't at Molineux then he will be watching any game on television that he can set his eyes on. Producing work for various football websites and publications, Ash has also written for regional newspapers and global magazines.

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