Fulham v Middlesbrough
Friday January 17, 19:45
Fulham pinch the points at Hull
Fulham closed the gap on the automatic promotion places with a narrow 1-0 victory at Hull last week. Ivan Cavaleiro, who made his loan switch permanent just days before the Humberside encounter, gave the Cottagers the lead with a superb curled effort from the edge of the area, the only major moment of quality in a game hampered by strong winds.
Marek Rodak and Alfie Mawson combined to deny the hosts a leveller six minutes into time added on as victory lifted the Whites to within six points of second-placed Leeds. However, Scott Parker's delight at bouncing back from defeat by Reading in their previous league game will have been tempered by seeing Aleksandar Mitrovic taken off on a stretcher.
Mitrovic is the joint-leading goalscorer in the Championship with 18 goals in 26 games this term and will certainly be absent for Friday night's fixture at the Cottage. Back-up forward Aboubakar Kamara wasn't in the squad at Hull but could be recalled to lead the Fulham line with Anthony Knockaert, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Cavaleiro playing supporting roles.
Middlesbrough fall short
Middlesbrough were frustrated not to take maximum points when welcoming Derby to the Riverside Stadium last Saturday, sharing the spoils despite enjoying the lion's share of goalscoring opportunities. And the Teessiders were back in action on Tuesday night, exiting the FA Cup with a 2-1 defeat in their third Round replay at Premier League outfit Tottenham.
Spurs were gifted a second-minute lead in midweek when Boro goalkeeper Tomas Mejias passed the ball to Giovani lo Celso, who cut inside a challenge and scored. Erik Lamela doubled the advantage after 15 minutes with George Saville pulling one back late on for Jonathan Woodgate's troops with a low strike from 20 yards, but it wasn't enough.
After the interval, Middlesbrough improved. Substitute Rudy Gestede had a chance to force extra-time but he could only head over from eight yards, whilst Lukas Nmecha, Paddy McNair, Lewis Wing and Saville all came close to levelling as the much-changed visitors pressed for an unlikely equaliser. Woodgate is expected to recall his rested players here.
Whites won't have it easy
Fixtures between Fulham and Middlesbrough have been nip and tuck. At Craven Cottage, the Whites have enjoyed W7-D1-L3 supremacy in head-to-head meetings this century, although the hosts have failed to take top honours in each of the most recent two duels here, the last of which ended in a 1-1 stalemate back in September 2017.
Only two Championship clubs have earned more points at home this season than Fulham 1.8810/11 with the Cottagers returning W8-D2-L4 in the capital. That sample includes W6-D1-L1 when entertaining bottom-half sides with the Whites striking at least twice on six occasions. However, the hosts reasonably underwhelm when inspecting performance data ratings.
Middlesbrough 4.407/2 have W6-D6-L3 in league action since mid-October and the Teessiders own data metrics have improved impressively over the past 10 weeks. Boro have bagged back-to-back away triumphs at Preston and West Brom - winning the Expected Goals (xG) battle in both, as well as when picking up a point at Nottingham Forest in early December.
Back both sides to oblige
The past five match-ups between Fulham and Middlesbrough have paid out for Under 2.5 Goals 2.1211/10 backers but there's little evidence to suggest Friday night's showdown will be a snoozefest in West London.
All bar four of Fulham's 14 home fixtures have featured at least three goals, with an average of 2.93 scored per-game. The host's overall Championship outings are also averaging 2.10 Expected Goals (xG) from open play, a divisional-high return, implying opportunities will be prevalent in both boxes at Craven Cottage.
Considering both outfits have fired a solitary blank in their past 13 matches, plus the underlying data metrics in our favour, it will probably pay to support Both Teams To Score at 1.758/11.