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Scouting Report: Middlesbrough (Away)

What to expect, and what not to expect, from Saturday’s north-east oppo.

Blackburn Rovers v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Safety is all but secured for the Royals, and they travel to Middlesbrough without the pressure of a relegation battle. Rotherham United would have to win both of their games, hope Reading lose both, and make up a 13-goal deficit if the Royals were to get relegated (which is clearly highly unlikely).

Tony Pulis’ side are still pushing for that last playoff spot, and anything other than a win against the Royals will stack the odds against them going into the last match of the season. Boro come into the game with three wins in their last six, and lost 3-0 last time out against Nottingham Forest. It was a very bad performance from Pulis’ side and they will be hoping to massively improve against the Royals.

What do Boro offer?

Middlesbrough are a very strong side defensively (excluding their last game obviously) and they have only conceded 39 goals this season. No other side has conceded fewer goals in the Championship, and it is only matched by second-placed Sheffield United.

So why aren’t they further up the table? Well, they may not concede many goals, but they don’t score many either. Only 16th-placed Stoke City and the bottom two (Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town) have scored fewer goals. For a side that are trying to reach the Premier League, that just simply isn’t enough goals.

It’s not a lack of creativity that’s the problem. They average 13.6 shots per game, which shows just how poor their finishing is. Encouragingly from a Reading perspective, if a team can break Boro down, they don’t really have a chance - as shown by Nottingham Forest on Monday.

Britt Assombolonga will be Boro’s danger man on Saturday. This season hasn’t been his most prolific, but the Royals know from experience that on his day he can be lethal. The Royals’ defence cannot allow him to have too many chances in the area, or he will punish us. If the Royals can sit back and catch Boro on the counter attack, they could be in with a chance of getting a result.

Prediction

I’m going to go with a dull 0-0 draw. I have a feeling the Royals will go out with a similar mentality as they did against Norwich City and Bristol City, and I don’t think Boro will be able to break them down and vice versa. The Royals will be by far the happier side with a bore draw and would mathematically secure championship football for next season.