Middlesbrough vs Hull City Preview: Tigers stalking another North East scalp

Middlesbrough vs Hull City Preview: Tigers stalking another North East scalp

Just one point separates the two sides as they go into Monday night's crucial fixture at the bottom end of the Premier League

sam-france
Sam France

Hull City travel to the Riverside Stadium on Monday night to face Middlesbrough, less than a week after knocking their North-East neighbours Newcastle United out of the EFL Cup.

The Tigers came from behind to beat Newcastle on penalties and reach the semi-finals of the League Cup, where they will play Manchester United over two legs in January.

Boro will be looking to bounce back from a desperately disappointing draw at Leicester City last weekend, where a 94th-minute penalty from Islam Slimani saw the Teessiders pegged back at the death after arguably meriting a win.

Team news

The hosts have no new injury problems to contend with and, having had a week to rest and train since their clash with the Foxes, could field an unchanged starting line-up.

George Friend remains out of contention so Fabio is likely to continue at left-back in his absence, while the return to fitness of Dani Ayala leaves manager Aitor Karanka with a number of options at the back.

Midfield pair Sam Clucas and Ryan Mason are available again for Hull after suspension and illness respectively, but manager Mike Phelan is short of options in attack.

Abel Hernandez and Shaun Maloney are unlikely to feature due to injury, while striker Dieumerci Mbokani is suspended after picking up a straight red after a clash with Newcastle's Jamaal Lascelles.

This could mean a full league debut for 19-year-old striker Jarrod Bowen, who signed a new two-year contract with the club last month.

Head-to-head

While Middlesbrough hold the better overall record in this fixture with 25 wins to Hull's seventeen - with seventeen draws - recent clashes between the two have been even with four wins apiece in the last eight.

If history is any indicator, this match should guarantee goals. The last 0-0 draw between the two came fourteen meetings and 25 years ago.

Last season, Hull romped to a 3-0 home victory before a last-minute goal from David Nugent saw Boro claim three vital points in the race for Championship promotion.

Karanka not drawn on Maguire links

Middlesbrough boss Karanka was asked about Hull defender Harry Maguire in his pre-match press conference, after making a number of bids to try and sign the 23-year-old in the summer.

"I like him but Harry is at Hull and I have 26 players," he said. "We have an amazing recruitment department, we are in December and I have to focus on the games. Whatever else happens, we will see in January.

"They know the players I want to bring and players who may leave but I have to focus on now.

"[This is] an important game as Hull and us share the same target - to be in the Premier League next season.

“We are in December and it’s an important game but we can’t drive ourselves crazy thinking it’s a final."

Phelan maintains he has options in attack

Meanwhile, his opposite number Phelan is confident his squad can stand up to the test posed by the absences of Mbokani and last year's Player of the Season Hernandez.

"We have options if Abel is not ready," he told the Hull Daily Mail. "I have a good young player in Jarrod Bowen who could play that role.

"I've got Diomande, who's a forward. I've got others who can play outside of their normal positions.

"There are things we can do. We could go with no centre forward. But we'll come up something between now and Monday."

Middlesbrough have never lost at home in a night game during Aitor Karanka's three-year tenure, while Hull haven't won on Teesside since Boro were almost liquidated in 1986.

The weight of the history books and Middlesbrough's recent up-turn in form suggests that the visitors have an uphill task ahead of them in what could turn out to be a crucial game at the bottom end of the table.

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