MX23RW : Friday, November 16 01:48:25
Aug 28, 2016 at 1.30pm UK at ​The Hawthorns
Attendance: 23,690
West BromWest Bromwich Albion

Preview: West Brom vs. Middlesbrough

Sports Mole previews the Premier League encounter at The Hawthorns between West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough.

West Bromwich Albion play host to Middlesbrough at The Hawthorns on Sunday afternoon looking to avoid a second successive defeat in the West Midlands after they let slip a one-goal advantage against Everton.

Newly-promoted Middlesbrough are yet to lose on their return to the top flight but Wednesday's night defeat to Fulham in the EFL Cup would have given Aitor Karanka reason to be concerned ahead of their third away fixture in a week.

West Bromwich Albion

Tony Pulis calls the shots during the Premier League game between Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion on April 9, 2016© Getty Images

In June, the Premier League fixture computer was remarkably kind to West Brom with their hardest game, on paper, being a home fixture with West Ham United, so when they started the season with a narrow win over Crystal Palace they would have been optimistic of building on that triumph during the rest of August.

Everything was going according to plan when Gareth McAuley gave them an early lead against Everton but they were denied back-to-back victories as the Merseyside outfit hit back to control much of the final 45 minutes.

That defeat - combined with the EFL Cup exit at Northampton Town - has once again resulted in the storm clouds starting to hover over The Hawthorns, and the showdown with Middlesbrough and the closing stages of the transfer window mark an extremely significant period for boss Tony Pulis.

The club have been linked with both Arsenal's Calum Chambers and Southampton's Jay Rodriguez but they are likely to find competition from at least half-a-dozen clubs and it may take a positive result on Sunday to convince either player to make the switch.

The situation involving Saido Berahino shows no signs of being resolved, with Stoke City chief Mark Hughes suggesting that the Potters will end their interest should a deal not be agreed in the coming days.

That transfer could go down to the wire but it leaves Berahino needing to convince the supporters that he is prepared to knuckle down at the club if a move does not materialise, and that will have to come on Sunday if he is given a fourth start of the season by his manager.

Recent form: WL
Recent form (all competitions): WLD


Aitor Karanka, manager of Middlesborough during the Sky Bet Championship match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Middlesborough at Molineux Stadium on October 24, 2015© Getty Images

Like Sunday's opponents, Middlesbrough were handed a favourable start to the season on their return to the top flight and so far, they have capitalised on their good fortune to move themselves into the top half of the table.

Karanka would have been slightly disappointed with the 1-1 draw with Stoke City but the 2-1 success away at Sunderland has only increased expectations at the Riverside Stadium.

The Tees-Wear derby was the early examination that Boro needed to show their credentials and they came through it with flying colours thanks to two excellent goals from Cristhian Stuani, the second of which was set up by Alvaro Negredo who has been superb on his second stint in English football.

Middlesbrough cannot afford to get ahead of themselves and the extra-time defeat to Fulham in the EFL Cup has potentially acted as a reality check, but Karanka and his squad will feel that they have a real opportunity to put daylight between themselves and the relegation zone over the next six weeks.

One area of concern for Karanka may be his goalkeeping department, with Victor Valdes likely to miss out on Sunday and Brad Guzan having made an error that led to Sunderland's goal in the North-East.

Boro are not short of a shot-stopper but the Spanish coach must decide whether to stick with the American or provide Dimi Konstantopoulos with an opportunity to stake his claim.

Recent form: DW
Recent form (all competitions): DWL

Team News

George Friend of Middlesbrough in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Cardiff City and Middlesbrough at Cardiff City Stadium on September 16, 2014© Getty Images

Karanka has suggested that he has concerns over the fitness of George Friend after he picked up a knock against Fulham.

The defender will be assessed over the next 24 hours but Fabio has been ruled out after going off early at Craven Cottage.

Bernardo Espinosa is expected to be in the 18-man squad after making the move to Boro during the summer.

Pulis said in his pre-match press conference that Brendan Galloway is a doubt after sustaining a minor injury at Northampton.

Midfield prospect Sam Field could feature, however, after Pulis praised the 18-year-old for his contribution in the EFL Cup.

West Bromwich Albion possible starting lineup:
Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Evans; Gardner, Yacob, Fletcher, Phillips; Berahino, Rondon

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Guzan, Nsue, Barragan, Ayala, Gibson, Clayton, Forshaw, Stuani, Ramirez, Downing, Negredo

Head To Head

The two teams will be meeting for the 92nd time in a competitive fixture when they do battle in the Black Country this weekend, with the home side having won 30 times in comparison to 38 victories for Middlesbrough.

However, it has been over six years since they played each other, with West Brom running out 2-0 winners at The Hawthorns thanks to goals from Simon Cox and Roman Bednar.

West Brom have won the last four matches, with Boro not claiming three points since a top-flight contest in February 2006.

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We say: West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Middlesbrough

Despite reports linking the club with a number of attackers, the Baggies are still to push through a deal for one of their targets and they may find it hard to break down a resolute Middlesbrough backline. However, they are in need of a big performance against a team likely to be one of their rivals come the end of the season and they should have enough to claim a point in a low-scoring draw.

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Who will win Sunday's clash between West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough?

West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom's Saido Berahino sits on the bench during the game with Newcastle United on December 28, 2015
Read Next:
Hughes pours doubt over Berahino deal

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