Middlesbrough vs Stoke City preview: How to watch, kick-off time, team news, predicted lineups and ones to watch
(Credit: Alex Dodd/CameraSport)

Two play-off chasing sides in Middlesbrough and Stoke City go head-to-head, with a win vital to either team's ambitions in the run-in to the campaign.

Neither team has been on top of their game recently, Boro with three wins in their previous 11 games and Stoke with three victories in their last 17. 

Incidentally, both teams have been embroiled in controversial games with Swansea City recently, with last-minute penalties given to the Swans in both games in recent weeks.

Boro have won just one home game of seven in 2021 so far, whilst Michael O'Neill's Stoke side have failed to win in their last nine away games. 

  • Team news

Middlesbrough were dealt a huge injury blow after their 2-1 defeat to Swansea, with news that right-back Anfernee Dijksteel will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

The full-back was forced off early in the game, and will not play again in the campaign's run-in after being one of Boro's best performers this season.

Ashley Fletcher could return to Neil Warnock's plans after missing the last three games with a glute injury.

Winger Marcus Browne (cruciate) remains sidelined for the rest of the season. 

The Potters have been hit with numerous fresh injury concerns, with Rhys Norrington-Davies, Sam Vokes and Jordan Cousins all doubtful for their trip up north. 

Rabbi Matondo will make a return to the matchday squad after injury, with the 20 year-old hardly featuring since his January loan move from Schalke.

Morgan Fox (hamstring), Sam Clucas (hernia) and James McClean (foot) are all in the treatment room.

Tyrese Campbell (knee) and Nathan Collins (foot) will not feature again this campaign.

  • Predicted lineups

Middlesbrough (3-5-2)

Bettinelli; Fry, Hall, McNair; Fisher, Saville, Tavernier, Howson, Bola; Akpom, Mendez-Laing.

Stoke City (3-4-1-2)

Gunn; Batth, Souttar, Chester; Smith, Allen, Thompson, Tymon; Powell; Clarke, Fletcher.

  • Ones to watch

Marcus Tavernier

Tavernier is a product of the youth academy on Teesside, and has been a bright spark in what is his fourth season for the club at just 21 years old. The attacking midfielder has been one of Boro's best performers this season, despite picking up just three goals and four assists in 30 appearances.

The promising youngster is top of the club charts for shots per-game, key passes per-game and dribbles per-game, and Boro will need him on good form to take three points from a resilient Stoke side.

Nick Powell

With 30 appearances so far this season, it goes without saying just how imperative Powell has been to the Potters successes so far. With 11 goals and two assists to his name, the 26 year-old has tried his utmost to fill the void left by Tyrese Campbell's season-ending injury.

Powell has been the man to pull City out of their recent rough patch, with six goals and an assist in his previous 10 games. Michael O'Neill could deploy him at either inside-left forward or attacking midfielder for the trip to Boro

  • Previous meetings

The reverse fixture at the bet365 Stadium was won by Stoke, with Nathan Collins heading home a 19th minute winner in early December.

That fixture was marred with controversy after the game, with Neil Warnock complaining at the poor facilities that his side had been given for their stay in Staffordshire. 

In the last five games between the two, Middlesbrough have regularly come out on top, with three wins, one draw and one Stoke win.

  • What the managers have said

In his pre-match press conference, Michael O'Neill outlined what he wants from his side in a key game against Boro. He said:

"It was pretty close last time and on the day we did enough to win. It came at a time in the season when we had quite a lot of injuries, if you look at the team that started.

“We want to win the game because if we win we’ll go above Middlesbrough in the table. That’s our incentive more than anything else.

“We want to win as many games as possible between now and the end of the season and this gives us the opportunity to do that.

“If you look at our away form there’s always room for improvement. That’s something we have to try to do between now and the end of the season.”

When asked if he would still be managing at Neil Warnock's age, O'Neill had high praise for his opposite number, he said:

“Definitely not. I don’t envisage that for me.

“I have to commend Neil and any manager who has that continued drive and appetite for the game at that age. It’s terrific. I admire how they continue to keep going."

Neil Warnock joked about the welcome that would await the opposition, after he was left unimpressed with the changing rooms at the bet365 Stadium.

"I have driven my camper van round the corner for the manager and staff, I hope they enjoy it in the car park."

He added: "For me, at this level you'd think the EFL would inspect away dressing rooms. It's not difficult to do. If the EFL gave the OK, we wouldn't have a problem."​​​​​​​