Middlesbrough vs Hull City Preview:
This will be the 64th competitive fixture between Middlesbrough and Hull City. Middlesbrough are still in 9th place following the dismal 1-0 defeat to promotion rivals Cardiff City. Hull are 21st, one point off the relegation places. Their last game was a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup. However, in their last Championship fixture, Hull beat Aitor Karanka’s Nottingham Forrest to climb out of the drop zone.
- Middlesbrough have won eight of their last nine home league matches against Hull, drawing the other in November 2010 (2-2).
- The Tigers have never won at the Riverside in a league game (P6 W0 D1 L5), last winning away at Boro at Ayresome Park in March 1986.
- Tony Pulis has only ended on the losing side in one of his last 12 league meetings against Hull (W6 D5), a 2-1 defeat in November 2009.
- Hull will be looking to win consecutive league games for the first time since April 2017, when they did so against West Ham and Middlesbrough in the Premier League.
Head-to-head: Middlesbrough wins: 28, Draws: 17, Hull City wins: 18. Highest Boro win: 5-1 (1956), Highest Hull win 5-0 (1922)
I mentioned in my previous preview that the Cardiff game will give Pulis a clear indication of the quality he possesses this season and if Saturday is anything to go by it appears we don’t have enough quality in the final third.
In my opinion, Saturday’s game against Cardiff was one of the worst performances of the season. There was no attacking edge, no direction and no positives at all to take from the game.
Indeed Saturday’s result does add to the current frustrations on Teesside and ‘smashing the league’ seems to be a distant memory. However, the next 6 weeks are vital to Boro’s season. We have winnable fixtures ahead and the teams above us all have to play each other so there is a chance of sneaking into the playoff places.
But we need to focus on one game at a time and try to put the performances right – starting with Hull City.
Tony Pulis is set to make changes to the side that were defeated by Cardiff. Boro had no attacking threat against Cardiff and it was clear if Traore was not creating anything, Boro were not going to do much going forward. The over reliance on the Spaniard may force Pulis to adjust his formation or introduce Jack Harrison from the start.
Last week I predicted Harrison may be involved against Cardiff following his January switch. However, I can see him starting from the off on Tuesday as Pulis tries to bolster Boro’s attack.
Furthermore, Patrick Bamford and Britt Assombalonga will be pushing for recalls to the lineup. The pair finished Saturday’s game up front against Cardiff and they will be looking to hit form once again as we approach the final third of the season.
Boro have a clean bill of health for Hull’s visit to the Riverside. With that in mind, a huge congratulation to Boro’s Head Physio Chris Moseley for overseeing his 750th game at the club last weekend.
Nigel Adkins will be without former Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson on the Tigers trip to the Riverside. The Swedish international is completing his two games suspension after picking up 10 yellow cards this season.
However, Adkins can recall on-loan Chelsea trio Michael Hector, Ola Aina and Fikayo Tomori to the squad after missing the FA Cup defeat to their parent club.
On the other hand, Markus Henriksen (ankle), Ondrej Mazuch (hamstring), Moses Odubajo and James Weir (both knee) and Abel Hernandez are still out.
Top scorer Jarrod Bowen and midfielder Harry Wilson are both doubts. Liverpool loanee Wilson damaged his shoulder against Chelsea while Bowen missed that game with a hamstring problem.
Finally, Hull midfielder Ryan Mason was forced to retire this week following the injury he sustained against Chelsea last season. The former Spurs graduate was a very bright player and had a great future ahead of him, but had been advised to retire from competitive football at the age of 26.
I wish Ryan well in his future endeavours and hope he becomes a successful coach/analyst.
Players to Watch: Jarrod Bowen, David Meyler and Kamil Grosicki
Nigel Adkins likes to set his Hull team up in an expansive 4-2-3-1 formation with Grosicki and top scorer Jarrod Bowen providing the width in midfield.
Hull’s expansive style has predominately been their downfall this season. The problem with an expansive style is it can cause huge gaps between the midfield and the defence and many teams this season have found them out, including a Boro side which won 3-1 at the KCOM in October.
This is a Hull team that can still score plenty of goals though. Jarrod Bowen has netted 12 goals this season in the Championship, a quarter of Hull’s goals (48). If Hull were to score, expect it coming from the left-hand side of the play with a cross towards the back post.
As for Boro, they need to get out of this inconsistent form and quickly if they are to make a late dash for the playoff places. To counter Hull’s style of play we need to look at our performance at the KCOM Stadium and mirror it. Boro played with tempo, speed and pressed the midfield which made it difficult for Hull to play out from the back.
In my opinion, it was one of the better displays under Monk and It’s a performance which Pulis can take notes from.
Pulis may opt to revert back to the 4-2-3-1 formation following the tactical error on Saturday and recall Britt Assombalonga to lead the line.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)
Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend. Leadbitter, Howson. Harrison, Downing, Adama Traore, Assombalonga.
As the 4-3-3 was an unsuccessful gamble I can see Pulis reverting back to the 4-2-3-1 formation with Britt leading the line.
However, I must add Gestede has been starved of service in recent games and received a lot of unnecessary criticism from the fans. Gestede can be a good striker but we don’t give him service.
On the other hand, I can see Harrison being introduced as Boro play with two natural wingers on the flanks. This allows Downing the freedom to roam in the number 10 role and potentially give the striker service going forward.
I expect this to be a really tough game for Boro especially as we are low on confidence. I think this is a perfect time for Hull to play us. They are wanting to pull away from the drop zone and will try everything to come away with something.
If we get the early goal I can see Boro controlling the game and making a routine win. It’s a potential Banana skin but I think we have enough quality to see it through.
Boro 2-0 Hull