Blackburn v Middlesbrough Sunday February 17, 13:05 Live on BT Sport
Blackburn suffer third straight loss
Blackburn were handed their third defeat on the spin on Wednesday night and any lingering hopes of a top-six finish now look bleak. Rovers went down 2-1 at Reading despite controlling the contest for large periods, before conspiring to lose to a strike just four minutes from time. The aim now will be to not let what had been a bright season fizzle out.
Tony Mowbray made four changes to his starting XI with attacking pair Bradley Dack and Danny Graham surprisingly among the substitutes. A three-man midfield was tasked with pressing the Royals into errors and despite a bright opening, Blackburn's forward threat was lacking as the visitors play lacked any real urgency.
Mowbray admitted post-match that he was pleased with his team's application and performance despite being disappointed with the final score and a lack of end-product in the final-third. Expect both Dack and Graham to be recalled here from the off with Ben Brereton likely to return to the bench as Rovers return to a regular 4-4-1-1 system.
Middlesbrough fall to damaging defeat
Middlesbrough suffered a damaging defeat at fellow promotion-chasers rivals Sheffield United on Wednesday evening in a night of few positives for the Teessiders. As well as losing to the only goal of the game via a set-piece situation, the visitors saw centre-half Daniel Ayala sent off and partner Aden Flint pick up an injury that will see both miss out here.
Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis was unhappy with the officials for two decisions in the lead up to the goal and vented his frustration post-match. Pulis had suggested the contest tipped in United's favour following Ayala's dismissal, although his team were unadventurous and second-best throughout, reliant on Darren Randolph between the sticks.
Boro have shown a degree of tactical flexibility in their systems employed this term and may need to shuffle their pack here with only Dael Fry, Ryan Shotton, Paddy McNair and George Friend available defensively. January signing John Obi Mikel has excelled in central midfield since arriving at the Riverside, whilst youngster Lewis Wing has impressed.
Honours even at Ewood Park
Five of the past six meetings between Blackburn and Middlesbrough have ended all-square and a repeat can be backed at 3.15 on Sunday. Considering the duo have played out draws in their 12/32 (38%) combined home/away Championship games in 2018/19, there might some mileage in supporting a repeat at Ewood Park.
Blackburn3.15 have built their solid campaign back at this level on their Ewood Park form. In Lancashire the hosts have suffered only three defeats, although all three have arrived against top-six teams, including a listless effort against Bristol City last weekend. Rovers have W2-D2-L6 against the top-10, and W2-D3-L3 here against the same opponents.
Inconsistent Middlesbrough [2.15] haven't recorded back-to-back victories since August. The Teessiders have W9-D10-L6 over their past 25 Championship outings, scoring more than a solitary goal on only eight occasions. However, the guests have tended to be tough operators on the road (W7-D6-L3), bagging W5-D5-L1 at sides outside the top-six.
Goalless game unlikely
Under 2.5 Goals is a short-priced favourite here with Middlesbrough in town. The Teessiders have seen only 6/16 (36%) of their road trips feature at least three goals, although nine (56%) have paid out for Both Teams To Score backers. Boro have kept just two shutouts in 14 and head here without their two leading centre-halves.
Blackburn have notched in all bar six of their 32 Championship contests, however, three of their blanks arrived against top-six teams on home soil. Nevertheless, Rovers have scored at least twice in five of nine Ewood Park meetings against the top-half and are well capable of putting this Middlesbrough backline under pressure.