Middlesbrough vs Aston Villa Preview: Tony Pulis hoping to get off to good start as Boro boss

New Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis will be looking to get off to a good start as his new side take on out-of-form Aston Villa at The Riverside Stadium on Saturday.

Pulis, appointed on Boxing Day as Garry Monk's successor, watched on from the stands as his new side beat strugglers Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at home on Boxing Day. Goals from Martin Braithwaite and Brit Assombalonga saw their side win their third game in four. 

Meanwhile Villa will visit the North East on the back of a 2-1 loss at Brentford on Tuesday night following a poor display. Steve Bruce's side were the architects of their own downfall as poor defending saw his side drop further down the table.

Heading into Saturday's game, the home side will be looking to close the three point gap with sixth-placed Sheffield United.

Villa on the other hand will be looking to bounce back and end their poor run of form with no wins and just three points from their last five league games. 

Both sides were hoping to be challenging at the top end of the table before the season started and with the season having just passed its half-way mark, it is starting to look likely that both club's best chance of promotion will be via the play-offs. 

The two teams have already met twice this season after facing each other in the Carabao Cup. Middlesbrough ran out victors in the cup tie thanks to a Patrick Bamford brace.

The league fixture, which was just three days before, was a 0-0 draw which saw both teams end with 10 men after Adamah Traore was sent off early on against his former team followed by Henri Lansbury's dismissal in the second half.

Going into the game Villa will likely be without top goalscorer Albert Adomah after he was brought off injured after just 18 minutes on Tuesday.

They have been handed a boost though as centre-back  John Terry could make a return to the team. Bruce will still be without Chris Samba, Henri Lansbury, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Jonathon Kodjia.

Boro are without only Adlène Guédioura with former West Bromwich Albion boss Pulis having an otherwise fully-fit squad to choose from.

Predicted line-ups

Middlesbrough: Randolph; Christie, Shotton, Gibson, Fabio; Howson, Leadbitter; Braithwaite, Bamford, Downing; Assombalonga.

Aston Villa: Johnstone; Hutton, Chester, Elphick, Taylor; Hourihane, Whelan; Grealish, Onomah, Snodgrass; Davies.