Match Preview & Podcast: Middlesbrough vs Nottingham Forest

Jonny Bullock hosts another episode of the Boro Breakdown podcast, where he looks back on Boro’s dismal draw to Burton and previews the game against Nottingham Forest.

Saturday marks the return of former Boro head coach Aitor Karanka, who led the club to promotion in 2016 after defeat in the play-off final the year before.

The club’s stint in the Premier League was short lived though, and Karanka was dismissed before Boro’s inevitable fate was sealed.

The Spaniard has since taken over at Nottingham Forest in circumstances not too dissimilar to when he joined Middlesbrough. His side sit 17th and are looking to consolidate a bottom half finish.

On the other hand, Boro still find themselves in sixth, but it’s far from comfortable.

Had it not been for Britt Assombalonga’s late equaliser against Burton, Boro would be draw level on points with in-form Millwall and Bristol City, but above them only on goal difference.

The play-off pack is bunching up and becoming tighter than ever. Can Tony Pulis’s side give themselves some breathing space in the race for promotion?

Team news

Boro only have minor knocks to contend with this week, and will monitor them ahead of Saturday’s game.

“We’ve got one or two knocks, one or two bumps and bruises over the games on Friday and Monday, but they’ve had a couple of days to settle down,” Pulis told Boro’s website.

“Everyone is out training today so we’ll see where they are in regards to fitness and whether they’re ready to go or not.”

For the visitors, Karanka was remaining typically coy on exactly who is doubtful for the game – but did say some players will have to be assessed.

“We have another two or three players as well, who we thought were going to be ready for the weekend, but have had problems today,” he told the Nottingham Post.

“I do not want to say who has these problems, I want to keep it quiet. Hopefully there will be positive news.”

However, he did mention that midfielder Kieran Dowell may be back after injury but David Vaughan and Daryl Murphy are out.

What the managers say

Aitor Karanka:

“I am really looking forward to it, because I had three-and-a-half years there, which were amazing. It was the first step in my career.

“I have very good memories and I know a lot of people there. It is a game I was looking forward to from the moment I arrived here.

“I hope I get a warm reception, because I did my best for them. I tried to do my best. I had a very good relationship with the ownership and with most of the players and the crowd.

“They knew that, in that moment, we were trying to do the best for the club.

Tony Pulis:

“We know it’s going to be a tough game. Aitor (Karanka) will set his team up to be very strong and rigid,

“They certainly won’t allow us to get in behind them so we have to make sure that we are ready for that and give it our best shot.

“It’s a game where I think tactically we will have to be very astute and understand what we are trying to achieve. I don’t think you can just go out and play a game of football against Aitor’s team.

“I think they’ll catch you and they’ll counter so we have to make sure we are very solid behind the ball, but we are expansive enough to create opportunities and chances.”

Match stats

  • Eight of the past 12 league meetings between these sides at Middlesbrough have ended as draws (three Middlesbrough wins, one Forest win).
  • Forest’s last league double over Middlesbrough came in 1992-93 in the Premier League.
  • Rudy Gestede has scored seven goals in his past six league matches against Forest – four of those came as a substitute.
  • Nottingham Forest have conceded more goals from corners this season than any other Championship team (10).
  • Tony Pulis has not faced Forest since New Year’s Day 2005, when his Stoke side lost 1-0 at the City Ground in a Championship match.
  • Middlesbrough have had 18 different players score for them this season – no Championship side has had more.

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