It’s fair to say that things have gone a bit pear-shaped for Middlesbrough recently, as they have dropped out of the automatic promotion places after winning only two of their last eight games.
After signing hotshot Jordan Rhodes many thought that Boro would run away with the league, but they have struggled for form recently and will be hoping to get back on track against a mid-table Wolves side.
Aitor Karanka will still have promotion in his sights and three points at the Riverside tonight, will send the Teeside club back to the summit temporarily.
Wolves put to an end a seven-game winless run last weekend by beating play-off chasers Derby at Molineux with George Saville scoring his first goals for the club in the win.
Fans of the Midlands side haven’t had much to cheer about lately, but an improved performance last time out saw them grab all three points against their East Midlands rivals.
Kenny Jackett will be hoping to exploit Middlesbrough’s recent poor run of form, and give the fans who have made the trip north something to cheer about for their long drive back to Wolverhampton.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Alex Grove takes a look at THREE things that are worth looking out for in tonight’s match-up…….
1. Middlesbrough’s home record against Wolves
If you’re thinking about putting a bet on tonight’s game then history dictates that the home team should prevail against the Midlands side.
You have to go back 65 years for the last time that Wolves won at Middlesbrough – a 2-1 victory on April 11 1961 at Ayresome Park under legendary boss Stan Cullis.
Since then 21 matches have passed and in that time the men in gold and black have failed to chalk up a single victory at the ground of their Yorkshire opponents.
Wolves have lost against Middlesbrough twice this season already – 3-0 in the League Cup at the Riverside and 3-1 at Molineux; and boss Kenny Jackett is desperate to end the Boro hoodoo tonight.
He said to the Express & Star: “These things are meant to be broke. It’s got to be broken sometime, why not on Friday night? It’s a fantastic time to change that.”
If Wolves can get an unlikely win in front of the Sky cameras tonight then it will be a victory that has certainly been a long time coming.
2. George Saville
He’s had a difficult time at Wolves since signing for the club as a highly-talented youngster from Chelsea, but Saville showed Jackett why he should be picked for the first-team in last week’s outing against Derby.
Two goals – one in either half – ensured that Wolves returned to winning ways and that he laid down his marker as to why he should be in the starting XI.
He had been on loan to Millwall earlier in the season and has sonly started four league games for Wolves this campaign.
However his double-goal display was enough to get the fans praising the 22-year-old with many now hoping that he won’t rest on his laurels and can prove why he deserves a place in what is a competitive midfield.
I would imagine that the same team that won against Derby will be fielded tonight and therefore Saville will get another chance to work on building up a strong partnership with Conor Coady and Kevin McDonald in the centre of play.
3. Middlesbrough stuttering?
After being outclassed by Norwich in last year’s Championship play-off final, many thought that Aitor Karanka would go one step further this time around and secure a return to the top-flight.
Of course that goal is very much still in motion but in recent games Boro have struggled to assert themselves in matches and have subsequently suffered a number of surprising losses.
With Boro faltering, others have capitalised with the likes of Hull, Burnley and even original table-toppers Brighton all now vying for a place in the top two.
A 1-0 victory at Brentford on January 12th earlier this year saw Boro march eight points clear at the summit of the league.
Now however they find themselves one point behind Hull and Burnley who occupy those automatic promotion places.
Middlesbrough do have a game-in-hand over their opponents but if they don’t arrest this slide soon and start fully utilising Jordan Rhodes up front they may once again fail to make the leap to the league where many fans feel they are destined to be.
Middlesbrough and Wolves fans – what are your predictions for tonight’s game? Will Boro get a routine win against opponents they usually beat? Or will Wolves end a 65-year wait for a win at Middlesbrough?
Let us know your thoughts on tonight’s match-up by leaving us a comment below!