Match preview: Hull City v Middlesbrough

We’re top of the greasy pole but this weekend will be a real test of our credentials.  Mitchell Whiley looks forward to this weekend’s clash.

A fixture that makes one salivate, this weekend Hull City host Middlesbrough at the KC Stadium. Two sides that will likely be amongst the automatic or playoff spots come season’s end, both are in very good form leading into this one.

Heavily backed favourites to take out the Championship this season, Middlesbrough have so far lived up to the hype and currently sit fourth, only a single point adrift of City in first. Having won their last four games, including a cup triumph over minnows Manchester United, Boro have planted themselves in the top five – the pack which looks to be breaking away from the rest of the Championship. Currently leading the goal scoring in the league for Boro is David Nugent and Diego Fabbrini with four each. Nugent has also been helping his team mates find the net, with four assists this season, while Fabbrini has the second highest passing accuracy in the Championship, completing 90.1%. Another key man for Middlesbrough is Stewart Downing. After netting against City for West Ham last season, he has found the net three times in the current season and has been pivotal in manufacturing attacking movements. Manager Aitor Karanka has no fresh injury or suspension concerns.

Undefeated in eleven in all competitions, and yet to lose at home this season, Hull City have justified their position on the table thus far this season, but will have to overcome a real challenge this weekend if they are to extend that record. A good second half midweek saw the Tigers beat Brentford 2-0, their fifth win in a row in all competitions and fourth consecutive clean sheet in the league. Goals are coming from all over the park, with eleven different scorers so far this season. However, Abel Hernandez will look to bounce back after failing to fire against Brentford midweek. The final game before the international break and the fitness of the players has been tested, in particular Andrew Robertson. Having played every minute in all competitions since the previous international break (where he also played for Scotland), Robertson is still playing his best football and was justly rewarded with his first City goal midweek. The only fresh injury concern for Steve Bruce is son Alex, who was substituted off in the eighteenth minute midweek, so expect Harry Maguire to start. After winning the previous four games convincingly with the same line-up (apart from the forced change of the injured Curtis Davies), it’s hard to see Bruce making many other changes to his side this weekend. Snodgrass may look to make a return after the international break against Bristol City, while Davies and Diomande may still be a few weeks off.

City’s win-draw-loss record against Boro of 16-17-24 points to a visitor’s victory. However, three of the last four matches have gone the way of the Tigers, most recently a 0-2 victory in the 2014 FA Cup third round thanks to goals from Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz. City have conceded the least goals of the ninety-two clubs in the Football League this season, equal on eight with Arsenal and Manchester United.

With both sides holding such strong defensive records, it’s difficult to say this one will be high scoring. Although Boro have won their last four, they’ve lost two of their last seven, both coming away from home. City are yet to lose at home this season but are possibly due to concede a goal after four consecutive clean sheets. Hull City 1-1 Middlesbrough.