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Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Birmingham City - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Championship clash between Middlesbrough and Birmingham City, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Middlesbrough welcome a former manager on Saturday, as Aitor Karanka brings his Birmingham City side to the Riverside Stadium in search of their first win in eight matches.

Having been seen off by Blackburn Rovers at home in their last league fixture, they were then convincingly beaten by Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend.

Boro come into this fixture off the back of a routine win over struggling Wycombe Wanderers and will be keen to keep their playoff charge going against City on Saturday.


Match preview

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock pictured on January 9, 2021© Reuters

Neil Warnock's side have been heavily affected by COVID-19 in recent weeks, which meant putting out a weakened team against Brentford - a closely-fought match that they went on to lose.

Since then, Warnock will have been pleased to hear that no new positive cases have emerged after the latest round of test results came through on Monday. With that, the Boro boss will be hopeful of having a more familiar first team ready for Saturday.

Boro will be hoping to secure their fifth straight home win against the Blues - a record that they last achieved back in 2018 under Tony Pulis, who recently left Sheffield Wednesday after only 45 days in charge.

Home form has been a major feature of Boro's success so far this season - having lost only one game and won seven - and Warnock will be confident his side can build on that record against a side who they beat 4-1 away from home just before Christmas.

Albeit a fan-favourite during his time with Boro, the Smoggies will want nothing more than a win over Karanka on Saturday to put pressure on the teams around them, who play in the later kickoffs.

Birmingham City manager Aitor Karanka pictured on January 10, 2021© Reuters

Despite sitting 19th in the Championship table, Karanka remains relaxed over his future as Birmingham City boss, but will be aware that results will need to come sooner rather than later, given their torrid run.

No win in eight, and no goals in their last three, leaves the Blues dead last in the form table with only one point secured in their last six.

It is hardly the sort of form that Middlesbrough will fear, but such is the unpredictability of this league, no team can become complacent at any stage of the season.

That said, Middlesbrough have lost only one of their last 20 home games against Birmingham in all competitions - that loss came by way of a 2-1 defeat last season when Pep Clotet was in charge of the Blues.

Middlesbrough Championship form: LWWWLW
Middlesbrough form (all competitions): LLWLWL

Birmingham City Championship form: WLLLDL
Birmingham City form (all competitions): LLLDLL


Team News

Marcus Browne scores for Middlesbrough on September 19, 2020© Reuters

Marcus Browne will not be available for selection after being stretched off in the Boro's 2-1 FA Cup loss to Brentford last weekend.

It is not yet known how long his dislocated kneecap will keep him sidelined for.

Meanwhile, Ashley Fletcher is nearing a return and has an outside shot of featuring in this one, though it is likely that this match has come a bit too soon for the former West Ham marksman.

Karanka may recall former Boro man Lukas Jutkiewicz to lead the Birmingham line after being dropped for Scott Hogan in the 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.

First-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge could also come back in between the sticks after sitting out the cup tie.

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Bettinelli; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair, Bola; Wing, Saville, Morsy, Johnson, Watmore; Assombalonga

Birmingham City possible starting lineup:
Etheridge; Colin, Roberts, Dean, Friend; Clayton, Sunjic; Sanchez, Toral, Bela; Jutkiewicz


SM words green background

We say: Middlesbrough 3-0 Birmingham City

Nearly all roads lead to a Boro win on Saturday, with the home side clearly in a good place when playing at the Riverside, and City seemingly struggling to keep goals out at one end and score at the other. We expect Boro to come away with a convincing win.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win 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.Home/Away:data


ID:430488:cQx

How you voted: Middlesbrough vs Birmingham

Middlesbrough
78.4%
Draw
10.8%
Birmingham City
10.8%
37
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Brentford's Saman Ghoddos celebrates scoring against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on January 9, 2021
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Norwich CityNorwich25165435211453
2Swansea CitySwansea24137429131646
3Brentford23128337211644
4Watford24127529181143
5Reading2413473728943
6Bournemouth25119538211742
7Middlesbrough23116630191139
8Stoke CityStoke2691073128337
9Bristol City24113102526-136
10Preston North EndPreston25112123133-235
11Barnsley25104112732-534
12Blackburn RoversBlackburn2496939281133
13Luton TownLuton2596102127-633
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2594122835-731
15Cardiff CityCardiff2485113028229
16Millwall2461172124-329
17Queens Park RangersQPR2569102331-827
18Coventry CityCoventry2468102234-1226
19Birmingham CityBirmingham2568111830-1226
20Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest2567122029-925
21Derby CountyDerby2567121625-925
22Rotherham UnitedRotherham2255122332-920
23Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds2367101523-819
24Wycombe WanderersWycombe2336141635-1915

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