Middlesbrough will be looking to get back to winning ways in The Championship as they take on Sheffield Wednesday at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Boro were knocked out of the FA Cup at the weekend as they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion at the Riverside. It was disappointing for everyone connected with the club to be knocked out by Glenn Murray's late strike but they will be desperate to respond in this one.
As for Wednesday, they sealed a comfortable win in the FA Cup on Friday night as they beat Championship rivals Reading 3-1 at Hillsborough and now will be looking forward to the fifth round of the competition.
Seasons so far
It has been a rather underwhelming start to the season for Middlesbrough after chairman Steve Gibson set the team such ambitious targets in the summer. They invested a significant amount of money such as the £15 million the spent on securing the signing of Britt Assombalonga from Nottingham Forest. However, they currently find themselves sat four points adrift of the play-off places.
A significant reason behind this is the slow start to the season that Boro made under the management of Garry Monk. The club made the decision to dismiss Monk shortly after a 2-1 win over Wednesday at Hillsborough in December. Monk felt that this was one of his side's best performances of the season but it was not good enough to prevent him from losing his job. Despite this win, he left the club having only won 12 games of his 26 in charge, drawing five and losing nine. This was simply not good enough for a side targeting automatic promotion before the season kicked off.
The club have since appointed Tony Pulis as their new manager and he has made a positive impact. He has won three of his six games in charge which has seen them reduce the gap between themselves and the play-off places. As the business end of the season approaches, his experience could prove invaluable and give Boro an advantage should they secure a play-off finish.
As for Wednesday, it has also been a very disappointing season for everyone connected with the club. Many felt that after back-to-back play-off finishes under the management of Carlos Carvalhal that the club had a good chance of pushing for automatic promotion this season. However, a lengthy injury list at Hillsborough caused massive issues and resulted in Carvalhal leaving the club by mutual consent following the 2-1 defeat to Boro in December.
Carvalhal has since gone on to make an impact in the Premier League as manager of Swansea City whilst Wednesday appointed experienced head Jos Luhukay as their new manager. Luhukay has steadied the ship since taking over and is undefeated in his first four games in charge, winning two and drawing two. He will be hoping that this statistic remains intact on Tuesday evening.
The Owls do need to keep picking up results as they currently find themselves just seven points above the relegation zone. It is highly unlikely that they will be relegated into League One due to the quality throughout the squad but they will want to increase that gap between themselves and the drop zone as soon as possible.
Last time they met
Boro last played Wednesday in a 2-1 win in the Championship at Hillsborough in December. Ross Wallace had given the Owls the lead in the first-half but second-half strikes from Jonny Howson and Ryan Shotton secured all three points for Boro. Remarkably, both Monk and Carvalhal lost their jobs as manager of Boro and Wednesday in the aftermath to this game.
Boro suffered a huge blow in the FA Cup defeat to Brighton as Daniel Ayala picked up a concerning injury. The 27-year-old has been a key player for Boro since Pulis took over as manager and he looks set to be out for a significant amount of time. It will be interesting to see how they cope without him in this match.
As for Wednesday, they continue to have a lengthy injury list as they have done for majority of the season. However, one positive in recent weeks has been George Boyd's return to the side and he would be unlucky to miss out on Luhukay's starting line-up.