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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Potent attack could help Baggies trouser three points at Middlesbrough

West Brom finding goals easier to come by in Championship

Dwight Gayle scored 23 goals during his last season in the second tier in 2016-17
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Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Friday

West Brom are finding it much easier to score goals in the Sky Bet Championship than in the Premier League and their red-hot attack could give them the edge over promotion rivals Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough are hunting a fourth straight league win and need just a point to displace Leeds at the top of the table.

But the markets might have overreacted slightly to Boro's fast start, which has been achieved at the expense of some ordinary opponents.

Boro are 6-1 second favourites to win the Championship but have not faced any of the teams in the top nine of the ante-post betting.

They face their biggest test of the campaign against free-scoring West Brom, who lead the second-tier scoring charts with 13 goals from four games.

Seven of those goals came in a 7-1 demolition of QPR last Saturday.

But Albion also impressed in a 4-3 success at Norwich the previous weekend and there have been encouraging signs from their revamped attack which features loan acquisitions Harvey Barnes and Dwight Gayle and ex-England international Jay Rodriguez.

Gayle scored 23 league goals for Newcastle in this division in 2016-17 campaign and Rodriguez is playing at a level below where he should be.

Barnes doesn't have the same pedigree but he impressed during a loan spell at Barnsley last season, scoring five goals, and continues to improve.

They are likely to be the key men in a likely promotion push but there is less certainty over the strength of the West Brom rearguard which is still adjusting to the departures of goalkeeper Ben Foster, right-back Allan Nyom and centre-back Jonny Evans.

Albion have conceded in each of their four league games and it will be interesting to see how they will cope in a tough away fixture.

Middlesbrough look more settled in defence with summer signing Aden Flint making some positive early contributions. But Flint hasn't come up against many strikers as quick as Gayle or as clever as Rodriguez.

Offensively, Boro have done reasonably well, scoring eight goals in five games.

However, they lost a key player when Adama Traore was transferred to Wolves and Boro boss Tony Pulis recognises the need to add more firepower.

Pulis had hoped to tie up a loan move for Yannick Bolasie but he is set to lose out to Aston Villa, who are reportedly close to concluding a deal for the Everton man.

The search for attacking reinforcements will continue until the loan window shuts but for now Boro look inferior to West Brom in the final third and that may hold the key to the outcome at the Riverside.

West Brom draw no bet
1pt 6-5 Paddy Power

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Team news
Jordan Hugill could make the bench after scoring in a midweek friendly against Hartlepool in but Rudy Gestede (ankle) is unavailable. Mo Besic could make the squad after signing on loan from Everton.

West Brom
No fresh injuries are reported but Craig Dawson and Nacer Chadli are unlikely to feature as they seek moves away from the club.

Key stat
West Brom have lost two of their last 11 matches.

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Boro's fast start has been achieved at the expense of some ordinary opponents
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