Struggling Middlesbrough will be looking for a vital victory to move out of the Championship's relegation zone on Sunday. Mark O'Haire previews their home contest against Hull...
"The 22-year-old is averaging a goal every 160 Championship minutes in 2019/20, as well as 0.45 xG per-game"
Middlesbrough v Hull
Sunday November 24, 12:00
Middlesbrough marooned in the bottom three
Middlesbrough remain marooned in the Championship relegation zone as their winless run extended to nine games at QPR before the international break (W0-D4-L5). Boro had failed to net in four consecutive fixtures before their 2-2 draw at Loftus Road where Britt Assombalonga scored twice, capitalising on a major error to clinch a share of the spoils.
The Teessiders made a fast start to the capital showdown but were second-best for the final hour, reliant on Assombalonga's clinical finish and the exploits of goalkeeper Darren Randolph to keep Jonathan Woodgate's men in the game. Despite Boro's plight, the club's hierarchy share Woodgate's view that overall performances have been better than results.
Boro were expected to be without up to nine players at QPR but Woodgate surprised plenty of pundits with Darren Randolph, skipper George Friend and Ashley Fletcher all fit to feature from the start. Middlesbrough are now reasonably injury-free with defender Ryan Shotton still sidelined and suspended midfielder George Saville the only major absentees this weekend.
Hull run league leaders close
Hull's three-match winning streak came to an end before the international break at home to table-topping West Brom. The Tigers were beaten 1-0 at the KCOM Stadium despite winning all the major performance data indicators and restricting the visitors to 0.59 Expected Goals (xG). Jackson Irvine was denied by a superb first-half save with City's best effort at goal.
Hull owners, the Allam family, were in attendance at a home game for the first time in more than four years but their team ultimately fell short. Boss Grant McCann admitted, "First half we weren't as good as we have been. In the second half, we were much better. The change of shape (from 4-4-1-1 to 4-1-4-1) helped us and we were more like ourselves."
The Tigers are now sweating on the fitness of frontman Norbert Balogh for Sunday's Riverside clash with Boro. The Hungarian has been sidelined with a calf injury and is touch and go for the televised tussle; with fellow frontman Josh Magennis suspended, McCann may only have one senior striker in Tom Eaves available. Elsewhere, Jon Tora is also crocked.
Boro uneasy Riverside favourites
Middlesbrough boast an excellent league record against Hull, particularly as hosts. The Teessiders have taken top honours in 19 of their past 21 home encounters with the Tigers (W19-D1-L1), including each of the past six. The hosts have also proven victorious in five of their last seven meetings with the Humbersiders at any venue (W5-D1-L1).
However, Middlesbrough 2.6613/8 are winless in their last nine Championship matches (W0-D4-L5), last having a longer run without a win outside of the top-flight in 1985 (10 games). Boro have earned nine of their 14-point tally at the Riverside (W2-D3-L3), although those eight outings have seen Jonathan Woodgate's troops notch a paltry tally of just five goals.
Hull 2.8415/8 are looking to win three consecutive away league games for the first time since April 2013 having beaten both Fulham and Nottingham Forest in their most recent two road trips. The Tigers threat is led by dynamic duo Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki - the pair have combined to create a divisional-high 23 chances for one another this season.
Only Leeds' matches are seeing fewer goals per-game than Middlesbrough's 2.13 average. Eleven of those 16 contests fell below the three-goal line with Boro firing blanks seven times already this term. Woodgate's team are amongst the Championship's cellar dwellers for creating chances, whilst conceding the second-most shots from inside the box.
Hull have seen Over 2.5 Goals in 10 (62%) of 16 league encounters with 5/7 (71%) games as guests following suit. The Tigers have troubled the scoresheet in all bar three games overall and rank third for generating Expected Goals (xG) from open play. Indeed, Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki have combined to score as many goals (13) as Boro's collective tally (13).
The aforementioned Jarrod Bowen is a 2.88 shot to grab a goal on Sunday, odds that imply a 35% chance. The 22-year-old is averaging a goal every 160 Championship minutes in 2019/20, as well as 0.45 xG per-game. The in-demand hot-shot takes 3.50 shots on average with 1.60 hitting the target, suggesting there's value in backing the Tiger to notch again.
Mark's 2019/20 Profit/Loss
Staked: 54.00 pts
Returned: 63.65 pts
P/L: +9.65 pts