Both teams are within touching distance of where they want to be in just 12 games at the end of the season. With Middlesbrough just one win from being in the Championship play-offs and Leeds United just six points away, they’re biting at Middlesbrough’s heels for a play off spot.
Leeds will be hoping for a similar result to the controversial reverse fixture where Leeds held on at home to Middlesbrough to win 2-1, but with both teams under different management anything could happen.
Tony Pulis is expecting a “tough game” at home against Leeds United
The Middlesbrough manager stated his press conference in good spirits, joking and praising the ground staff as "absolutely fantastic" at both the stadium and training ground, after the weather conditions around the county this week. Pulis went on to state that the help "proved this is a can-do club … and that people at the football club want to do things and again it shows great spirit" stating that can stem right down to the players.
Additionally, he added a call to the fans; “If you can get there safely then please come and watch the game and help the lads.”
Alongside the spirt in the club, Pulis is even happier about the decision to rescind Adama Traore’s straight red card from Boro’s three all draw away to Sunderland last weekend. He stated that “he was unjustly done in a lot of ways" before going on to say that he is "disappointed that he wasn’t on the pitch for 90 minutes on Saturday.”
The Welshman went on to talk about his opponents, praising their players and squad saying “they’ve got some good players", adding that it is a "very competent squad for the Championship."
Pulis admitted he is expecting “a tough game" from the Whites, saying "physically they are tough and they have got some quality in their team."
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Paul Heckingbottom calls for players to bring confidence into the “next two games against Middlesbrough and Wolves”
The Yorkshire club have also been hit by the adverse weather in the last week, with the Leeds players having to use the indoor facilities throughout the week.
Manager Paul Heckingbottom described his side's next two games against Boro and Wolves as "really big games for us", adding "we want to be playing these sides."
The Leeds boss was also full of praise of the team three places and points ahead of them in the league, stressing that “Middlesbrough have been difficult to play against recently" before going to say that Boro "have grinded out lots of results, managed to move up the table and they find themselves in a really strong position now."
Heckingbottom is under no illusions of the difficulty of the fixture, saying: “we know it is going to be tough regardless because of the players they have and likewise Tony Pulis has the team really well organised now.”
Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter is “an outside risk” according to manager Tony Pulis, after the skipper “felt the top of his hamstring” as he took the penalty he scored against Sunderland last week.
Other than Leadbitter there is no new injuries for Boro, with Rudy Gestede on the path to recovery after his successful operation on Monday and with Fabio still out from his injury that has kept him out throughout the winter period.
As for Leeds, Paul Heckingbottom has said that “if there is any doubt we won’t risk them” [Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe] after they missed last Saturday’s victory against Brentford.
Additionally, he stated that the other absentee from the victory against Bentford, ex-Boro man Adam Forshaw will be in the squad as he trained all week after the birth of his baby boy.