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Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Watford - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Monday's Championship clash between Middlesbrough and Watford, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Watford will be looking to tighten their grip on an automatic promotion spot in the Championship when they travel to top-six chasing Middlesbrough on Monday afternoon.

The Hornets have won six games in a row to open up a healthy gap on the chasing pack, while Boro have lost back-to-back matches to lose ground on the playoffs.

Match preview

Watford's Nathaniel Chalobah celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on March 20, 2021© Reuters

A somewhat controversial Tom Lees own goal proved the difference as Watford edged out strugglers Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at Vicarage Road on Good Friday.

It was far from a convincing victory for the Hornets in their first game back from the international break, but the three points is all that counts.

With third-placed Swansea City losing at Birmingham City later in the day, Watford are nine points clear of the Welsh side, who do still have a game in hand to play.

Brentford can move to within four points of Watford if they win their two games in hand, the first of those away to Huddersfield Town on Saturday afternoon.

That points margin could come in handy as Xisco's side face Boro, Reading, Norwich City, Brentford and Swansea in five of their remaining seven games - an extremely tough run.

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock pictured in February 2021© Reuters

Any sort of slip-up could just allow the chasing pack to close in, then, and Monday's trip to the Riverside Stadium is far from a straightforward assignment.

Boro have won back-to-back matches on home soil without conceding, seeing off Stoke City 3-0 and Preston North End 2-0, and are without a defeat there in three.

However, Neil Warnock's men have lost to Millwall and Bournemouth in their last two games either side of the international break, leaving them with a lot of work to do.

The 3-1 reverse at Bournemouth on Friday could prove particularly costly, with that loss seeing the gap on the top six increase to seven points.

Warnock-managed sides do not tend to do well against Watford, either, with the veteran coach losing 17 league matches against them down the years - his joint-most as a manager in the top four tiers of English football, alongside Reading.

Another defeat on Monday, combined with other results going against them, and Boro's outside promotion hopes will surely be over for another season.

Middlesbrough Championship form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • L

Watford Championship form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Team News

Ismaila Sarr celebrates scoring for Watford against Norwich City in the Championship on December 26, 2020© Reuters

Middlesbrough were without Dael Fry and Marcus Tavernier for their defeat at the Vitality Stadium. Warnock later confirmed that they will miss three weeks and a week respectively.

Paddy McNair was forced to play at the back against Bournemouth, despite being in action for Northern Ireland less than 48 hours beforehand, and he is likely to start again here.

Warnock has repeatedly called out his strikers and went without a recognised centre-forward on Friday, but he will surely be tempted to change things around versus Watford.

The visitors welcomed midfielder Philip Zinckernagel back into their starting lineup against Wednesday, while Ismaila Sarr recovered from a knock in time to feature.

Xisco may opt to change things around slightly given the quick turnaround in matches, so Ken Sema and Dan Gosling are contenders to come into the XI.

Isaac Success has yet to score in five Championship outings for Watford, but he is still in contention to lead the line at the Riverside. Captain Troy Deeney remains sidelined.

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Bettinelli; Fisher, Hall, McNair, Bola; Saville, Howson, Morsy; Tavernier, Fletcher, Kebano

Watford possible starting lineup:
Bachmann; Femenia, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Masina; Chalobah, Hughes, Zinckernagel; Sema, Success, Pedro

SM words green background

We say: Middlesbrough 0-1 Watford

Watford have won six games in a row, whereas Middlesbrough's promotion charge has halted with back-to-back losses on their travels.

Boro have won none of their last eight league games against Watford, meanwhile, and have failed to even score in the last four of those, so we are going with an away win here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a double chance bet on a draw or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Draw/Away:data

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Watford manager Xisco Munoz pictured in February 2021
Read Next:
Xisco Munoz eyes Championship crown after Sheffield Wednesday win
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