Middlesbrough earned a point at Preston during the week as they continue lurk just behind the top spots in the Championship table.
Certainly, they are promotion contenders this season and they get the chance to make a statement this weekend as they take on Aston Villa.
A draw in the week against Preston, but perhaps a good result in the long run?
Yeah I think so, Preston are in good form and were a handful for us the other night with their pace and attacking threat. I think it was the sort of game we would’ve lost under Garry Monk, so in the long run a good point on the road.
Tony Pulis seemed to rest some players for that game, can you see the likes of Downing or Besic coming back in?
It was a strange selection, I’m not too sure why he went with Gestede over Braithwaite, someone who proved early in the game that his career is becoming hampered by injuries. I think Pulis clearly had one eye on the Villa game at the weekend, a team we struggled to break down 3 times last season so he clearly wanted Braithwaite, Downing and Besic to all be well rested.
Marcus Tavernier got the important goal at Deepdale – should he start this weekend?
I hope so, I think he brings a threat that not many other players in our team possess. I think this season we’ve struggled in the wide areas and to a degree he has solved this problem, but he is only 19 so he still needs to be managed correctly.
What has impressed me most about Tavernier, is his movement and timing in and around the box. His goals against Sunderland last year and Brentford this season are prime examples of this, most strikers would be proud!
He’s one reason why we might not see many Boro transfers in January.
Aston Villa pack plenty of threat – how do Boro get the better of them?
Aston Villa are very strong offensively, but defensively this season has been their downfall (their 5-5 draw with Forest highlighting this perfectly).
Keeping the likes of Adomah, Grealish, Bolasie and Abraham quiet is going to be tough. I think the way to win this game from Boro’s perspective is to stay tight and compact, while trying to win as many set pieces as possible. I think they’ll really struggle against the likes of Flint and Ayala from what I’ve seen of their defending.
I don’t think we’ll keep a clean sheet, so I’m going to be optimistic and say 2-1 Boro.