The Clarets pipped their North East rivals to top spot in an enduring tussle between the two sides last season, while managers Sean Dyche and Aitor Karanka stoked the flames by trading verbal blows over the course of the campaign.
Both sides have performed encouragingly so far this season, with Burnley’s home form and Middlesbrough’s defensive resolve gleaning credit from neutrals. Monday’s clash provides an opportunity for one team to catch the eye once more and underline their survival credentials.
The Clarets have the edge in games played between the two sides over the years, shading the head-to-head record with 24 wins to Boro’s 23.
Neither side has to look far for their last win over the other, however. Burnley dumped the Teesiders out of the FA Cup at the beginning of the calendar year with a 2-1 win at the Riverside Stadium, while little under a month earlier, Karanka’s men had won the league meeting 1-0.
Supporters won’t have to cast their minds much further back for the last game between the two, as Boro’s last trip to the claret corner of East Lancashire ended in a dramatic 1-1 draw in April. Burnley nemesis Jordan Rhodes looked to have pinched three points for the visitors, before Michael Keane’s late leveller ensured Burnley’s unbeaten run remained intact.
Middlesbrough’s sole away win of the season came at the first attempt – a 2-1 win over a hapless Sunderland back in August. Since then, they have drawn five of their seven away games, including unlikely points against Manchester City and Arsenal.
By contrast, Burnley have drawn just one game at home all season – a 1-1 draw with Hull City, with Robert Snodgrass’ late free-kick earning the Tigers a share of the spoils.
Goals may not be in plentiful supply on Boxing Day, either. Burnley (157) and Middlesbrough (156) have attempted the fewest number of shots in the league this season, while there have been over 2.5 goals in just 44% of the Clarets’ and 38% of Boro’s.
The pair are therefore, somewhat unsurprisingly, the joint-seventeeth highest scorers in the league with just 16 goals apiece.
Burnley will be boosted by the return of winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who will make his first appearance since last month’s 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester City. The Iceland international has fully recovered from a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, full-back Matt Lowton will be an enforced absentee after picking up a fifth booking of the season against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month. Jon Flanagan and Tendayi Darikwa are the most likely deputies.
Middlesbrough’s only injury concern is with winger Victor Fischer, who picked up a knee injury during the 3-0 win over Swansea City. The visitors will otherwise have a clean bill of health for the festive showdown.