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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Middlesbrough set to answer their critics

City could struggle at home

Middlesbrough clap the fans at the end of the Forest game
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, 5.30pm Saturday

Middlesbrough have been accused of failing to deliver in the big matches but can answer their critics by beating fifth-placed Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

November was a stop-start month for Boro, who won two and lost two of their four league games.

Both of the defeats, a 2-1 reverse at Leeds and a 3-0 loss at home to Derby, were inflicted by promotion rivals and raised serious questions about Middlesbrough's ability to cope with the better teams in the division.

Their only victory over a top-half team was when they triumphed 1-0 at home to Sheffield United in August but they have been generally strong on their travels and have lost on just one of their last seven Sky Bet Championship road trips.

Last weekend's loss to Derby was Boro's heaviest defeat of the season but they were the dominant team in the first half and lost their shape for the last 30 minutes after centre-back Daniel Ayala was sent off with the score at 2-0.

Ayala serves a suspension but key midfielder Jonny Howson is available after a ban and Boro are in a much healthier state than their opponents, who are going through an injury crisis.

Bristol City overcame their problems to win 3-2 at Hull last Saturday, scoring three times in the last 25 minutes.

But it was a disjointed performance for most of the game and the late fightback says as much about Hull's fragile state as it does about City's powers of recovery.

The victory also came as a major cost with influential winger Callum O'Dowda sustaining an ankle injury which will rule him out for at least the next two months.

Robins' manager Lee Johnson has spoken about beefing up his squad in the January transfer window but his team have to get through eight games by New Year's Day and are likely to kick off their hectic spell with a defeat.

Middlesbrough draw no bet
2pts 6-5 Sky Bet

Team news
Bristol City
Callum O'Dowda (ankle) will miss the next eight to ten weeks. He joins Famara Diedhiou, Gary O'Neil, Jens Hegeler (all knee) and Eric Pisano (hamstring) on the sidelines but Joe Bryan could return from injury.

Daniel Ayala is banned but Rudy Gestede (leg) is in the squad for the first time since August and Jonny Howson returns from suspension.

Key stat
Middlesbrough have lost only one of their last seven away league games.

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Middlesbrough have lost only one of their last seven away league games
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