Back pragmatic Pulis: Middlesbrough v Millwall Championship Preview
Middlesbrough take on Millwall in Saturday evening’s televised Championship action. Infogol’s Analyst previews the game, using expected goals (xG) to generate the best bets.
Boro looking good at home
Despite being fancied by many to get straight back into the Premier League at the first time of asking, Middlesbrough have been rather inconsistent throughout the season, yet there are signs they are beginning to click at just the right time.
They come into this off the back of deserved wins against Derby and Bristol City and will be looking to notch three consecutive wins for the second time under Tony Pulis since he took the reins in late December. The former Baggies coach is renowned for his defensive organisation, and recent results suggest his team now know what is expected of them– particularly at home, where they’ve conceded more than one xGA just once in the last six and that was to table-topping Wolves.
In spite of their focus on defence, Boro have still been finding the net on a fairly regularly basis and have been the seventh-highest scorers in the league this season (58), although, according to xG they have over performed and should actually be tenth on that list (52).
Britt Assombalonga has shouldered goal scoring responsibilities for much of the season, yet, in recent weeks, others have begun to chip in and as is common with Tony Pulis sides, well-drilled set-piece routines are always a threat, especially with the trusted left foot of Stewart Downing on duty.
Millwall have it all to do
Following Millwall’s 1-0 defeat at Carrow Road on New Year’s Day, no one could have envisaged the 17-match unbeaten run that propelled them into the promotion conversation, but last Friday’s 3-0 home defeat to Fulham has given them a mountain to climb with two games remaining.
Saturday’s trip to the Riverside looks to be a must-win for Neil Harris’ men. The gap to sixth is two points and they face Aston Villa in their final match, while their promotion rivals have more favourable fixtures.
At this stage of the season, quality tends to tell and with the Lions over-performing in almost every department in the 36 games so far, now could be the time for Millwall to realise their shortcomings and fall short of the play-offs.
Middlesbrough have won five out of their last six home games, with that one defeat at the hands of the league leaders, and go into Saturday’s game in solid form. Millwall have punched above their weight this season but last week’s defeat means they are under pressure for the first time. Nevertheless, Boro are unlikely to open up here and we can expect a cagey game to be decided by one moment of quality, potentially from a set-piece.
Middlesborough to win @ Evens
Stewart Downing to score first @ 13/1