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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Middlesbrough boss can get one over former side Leeds

Put your faith in Monk's men

Marcus Tavernier is a rising star for Middlesbrough
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Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 1.15pm Sunday

Less than a month ago Leeds were fourth in the Sky Bet Championship, six points and nine places better off than Middlesbrough and promotion talk was all the rage at Elland Road.

Fast forward a few weeks and things look a lot different.

These two square off with Boro in fifth, five places and three points superior to their Yorkshire rivals after a complete U-turn in fortunes.

Leeds can’t buy a win, Boro can’t lose, and the best bet is that Garry Monk marks his return to his former club by masterminding an away triumph.

At the start of the season relegated Boro were seen as title challengers but they took time to get going under new boss Monk, who oversaw a sizeable summer overhaul.

Over recent weeks, however, he seems to have hit upon winning formulas all over the pitch. Grant Leadbitter and Jonny Howson is a dream axis in midfield, Stewart Downing has been reborn, teenage gem Marcus Tavernier has emerged, Britt Assombalonga is a top-class centre-forward and defensively they look rock-solid.

The upshot is just two defeats in 12, both at the Riverside, and they’ve won each of their last two road trips, at Reading and Hull.

Boro are full of confidence and playing well enough to take advantage of any edginess at Elland Road, which is creeping in after three straight losses, four if you add on a 3-1 loss at Leicester in the League Cup.

Just like last season in the Premier League, there aren’t many goals in Boro games with their matches averaging 2.1 goals.

Thomas Christiansen has firepower to summon – moreso if Caleb Elukan is fit after a three-month layoff – yet it’s 8-13 that there are under 2.5 goals. That says much for Boro’s defence, which is the best in the section.

1pt 8-5 Betfair

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Team news
Striker Caleb Ekuban is close to a return. Stuart Dallas is hopeful of being fit.

Striker Rudy Gestede (thigh) is a major doubt. Right-back Cyrus Christie is suspended.

Key stat
Middlesbrough boast the best defensive record in the Championship with 13 goals conceded.

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Leeds can’t buy a win, Boro can’t lose, and the bet is that Garry Monk marks his return to his former club by masterminding an away triumph
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