This will be the 96th competitive fixture between Preston North End and Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough wins: 43 / Draw: 23 / Preston North End wins: 29
Boro lay 9th in the Championship table after yesterday’s defeat to promotion rivals Aston Villa whilst Preston are above Boro in 8th place following their win at Cardiff.
Preston are winless in 11 league matches against Middlesbrough (D5 L6) since a 1-0 win in April 1972 under Alan Ball Sr.
Middlesbrough have lost one of their last 15 matches against Preston in all competitions (W9 D5), a 1-0 FA Cup defeat in January 1987.
Preston have kept seven home clean league clean sheets this season – the same number they managed in all of last season.
Middlesbrough have won none of their last 14 league matches on New Year’s Day outside the top-flight (D5 L9) since a 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town in 1959.
The Lilywhites have lost just three of their last 23 home Championship matches (W11 D9).
Tony Pulis is set to make more changes to the Boro team against Preston on Monday. Pulis explained in an honest post-match interview that he has yet to see all of the first team players in action and he is in a trial and error period for the next couple of weeks as he tries to find the best fit.
However, the biggest surprise of the weekend was the inclusion of Adlene Guedioura on the bench. The Algerian played 186 minutes for Middlesbrough in 2017, did not train with the first team squad during pre-season and was set to make a quiet exit in January until the new manager arrived.
Pulis could be tempted to select Guedioura for the trip to Deepdale along with Lewis Baker and winger Adama Traore in a rotated eleven.
Pulis said “expect changes on Monday” and it will be interesting to see how many he makes.
Alex Neil will have a nice problem to deal with following the return of a number key players to his squad. Greg Cunningham returned to the team against Cardiff City following a lay off which has only seen him play 350 minutes this season. However, he is a doubt for the game due to fixture congestion and Alex Neil is unlikely to select him for Monday’s game.
Furthermore, the former Norwich manager may want to make further changes to the squad due to Paul Huntington, Jordan Hugill, Ben Pearson, Ben Davies, Chris Maxwell and Tom Barkhuizen playing all of the games during this Christmas period and he may consider rotating them to the bench.
However, the Preston Manager is still without Darnell Fisher, Tommy Spurr (knee), Josh Earl (knee) and Sean Maguire (hamstring). Preston’s new striker Louis Moult’s is not eligible to make his debut following his arrival from Motherwell in Mid-December.
Players to Watch: Tom Barkhuizen, Jordan Hugill and Josh Harrop
Alex Neil likes to set Preston up in the 4-2-3-1 formation with Barkhuizen and Robinson on the flanks.
The Preston manager has implemented an open, free-flowing style to the Lilywhites this season which aims to stretch the opposition and create space for the no.10 to get a shot away from outside the box. Preston’s style of play starts with a high press from the fullbacks in an attempt to suffocate the opposition in their own half and reduce the opponents possession.
To counter Preston’s style Boro can play two ways, compact and defensive and try to look for set pieces or set up with a higher line than usual and try to pin the fullbacks back.
The latter would allow Boro to dominate the ball and create more chances in and around the box.
However, Tony Pulis is more likely to keep the Boro team compact and look to set pieces in an attempt to pick up the 3 points at Deepdale. To ensure we have an attacking outlet I can see Pulis starting Adama Traore on the wing. The Spanish winger played excellent against Aston Villa and I can see him getting the nod over Martin Braithwaite tomorrow.
Predicted XI (4-4-2) – Randolph, Christie, Shotton, Gibson, Friend. Guedioura, Howson, Braithwaite, Downing, Gestede, Assombalonga
Tony Pulis will look to tinker with his squad for the forthcoming weeks and I would not be surprised to see Guedioura in the fold again. Furthermore, Pulis wants to look at Boro’s academy players such as Marcus Tavernier who was excellent during his small stint in the first team. It’s no secret Boro have some excellent academy players coming through, the u23’s have shown quality in the PL Youth Leagues along with the current crop on loan at Football League clubs.
However, in the short term, Pulis will be looking to senior members of the squad to rotate for the next 3 games. I can see Christie coming back into the squad ahead of Ayala for the next game.
Score Prediction – Preston 1-1 Middlesbrough