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Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Fulham

Sports Mole previews the Championship match between Middlesbrough and Fulham at the Riverside.

Second-placed Middlesbrough will be looking to get back to winning ways when they host Fulham in the Championship this weekend, having lost their first match in six outings before the international break.

The Cottagers come into this match having picked up just one victory from their last four outings through, leaving them six points outside the playoff places.


Middlesbrough's David Nugent celebrates with team-mates after scoring the opening goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Leeds United at the Riverside on September 27, 2015© Getty Images

Aitor Karanka's side sit just two points behind Brighton & Hove Albion coming into this match, having lost just twice in the Championship so far this season.

Boro had been on a five-match winning streak just before the international period, but were beaten by Reading at the Madejski Stadium in their last outing.

Despite the team sitting in the automatic promotion places, the manager has been playing down his side's form at the start of the season, insisting that they must not get carried away.

The team have the joint-best defence in the division so far this season, having conceded just seven goals while keeping four clean sheets.

Along with this weekend's opponents, Boro also have the second-best attack, netting 17 goals in the Championship, with only Queens Park Rangers, who have the worst defence, having scored more.

With a League Cup match away at Manchester United coming up later this month, this fixture starts a run of five matches in 15 days for Karanka's squad.

Recent form: WWWWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWL


Ross McCormack celebrates scoring for Fulham on September 13, 2015© Getty Images

Kit Symons's team are looking for their first win in three matches when they travel to the Riverside this weekend, having been beaten by Wolverhampton Wanderers and drawing with Charlton Athletic just before the international break.

Fulham are six points behind Burnley, who occupy the final spot in the playoffs, and eight points off the second automatic promotion spot currently occupied by Boro.

The manager will be keen to close the gap to the top six, with reports suggesting that he is under pressure coming into this fixture as the club's board are keen to secure promotion this season.

There has also been talk of Moussa Dembele leaving the club in the January transfer window, with Everton continuing to be linked with the 19-year-old after failing to sign the striker over the summer, but the club are thought to be close to offering him a new deal.

While the Cottagers have the same goal-scoring record as this weekend's opponents, they have not been as strong at the back, keeping just one clean sheet in their first 10 fixtures, while letting in 16 goals.

Ross McCormack has been in strong goal-scoring form in recent weeks, scoring four goals in the team's last five matches in the division. The Scot has seven goals in all competitions for Fulham so far this season, making him the club's top scorer.

Recent form: WWLWLD
Recent form (all competitions): WLLWLD

Team News

Fernando Amorebieta of Middlesbrough (29) scores their second goal during the Sky Bet Championship Playoff semi-final first leg match between Brentford and Middlesbrough at Griffin Park on May 8, 2015© Getty Images

The visitors will need to put Tim Ream through a late fitness test after he picked up an injury while on international duty with the United States.

James Husband will be unavailable, as he is on loan at Craven Cottage from Middlesbrough, but Matt Smith, Luke Garbutt, Scott Parker and George Williams are also nearing a return to first-team action after featuring with the Under-21s.

Meanwhile, Karanka has insisted that he has no fresh injury concerns, despite several of the club's players being involved in internationals over the last two weeks.

However, Fernando Amorebieta is unavailable, as he is on loan from Fulham, so cannot face his parent club.

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Konstantopoulos, Kalas, Ayala, Nsue, Friend, Clayton, Leadbutter, Stuani, Fabbrini, Downing, Kike

Fulham possible starting lineup:
Lonergan, Richards, Stearman, Ream, Garbutt, Christensen, Tunnicliffe, O'Hara, Pringle, McCormack, Dembele

Head To Head

Middlesbrough have won just one of their last four matches against Fulham, losing 4-3 when the sides met at Craven Cottage back in April.

However, Fulham have only won once at the Riverside in 12 previous visits to Middlesbrough's ground.

In 24 meetings between the two sides there has been little to separate the teams, with both having secured 10 wins, while sharing four draw.

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We say: Middlesbrough 2-1 Fulham

The Riverside has not been a happy hunting ground for Fulham, with their only win coming back in the 1940s. Aside from their win just before the international break, Middlesbrough have been in strong form, while the Cottagers have been struggling over the last month.

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Who will win the Championship match between Middlesbrough and Fulham?

Jazz Richards in action for Swansea on August 26, 2014
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Preview: Fulham vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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