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Jan 16, 2021 at 12.30pm UK
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Dijksteel (83')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Hogan (26')
Toral (15'), Sunjic (71')

Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Birmingham City - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Birmingham City - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Championship clash between Middlesbrough and Birmingham City, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Middlesbrough welcome a former manager on Saturday, as Aitor Karanka brings his Birmingham City side to the Riverside Stadium in search of their first win in eight matches.

Having been seen off by Blackburn Rovers at home in their last league fixture, they were then convincingly beaten by Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend.

Boro come into this fixture off the back of a routine win over struggling Wycombe Wanderers and will be keen to keep their playoff charge going against City on Saturday.

Match preview

Neil Warnock's side have been heavily affected by COVID-19 in recent weeks, which meant putting out a weakened team against Brentford - a closely-fought match that they went on to lose.

Since then, Warnock will have been pleased to hear that no new positive cases have emerged after the latest round of test results came through on Monday. With that, the Boro boss will be hopeful of having a more familiar first team ready for Saturday.

Boro will be hoping to secure their fifth straight home win against the Blues - a record that they last achieved back in 2018 under Tony Pulis, who recently left Sheffield Wednesday after only 45 days in charge.

Home form has been a major feature of Boro's success so far this season - having lost only one game and won seven - and Warnock will be confident his side can build on that record against a side who they beat 4-1 away from home just before Christmas.

Albeit a fan-favourite during his time with Boro, the Smoggies will want nothing more than a win over Karanka on Saturday to put pressure on the teams around them, who play in the later kickoffs.

Despite sitting 19th in the Championship table, Karanka remains relaxed over his future as Birmingham City boss, but will be aware that results will need to come sooner rather than later, given their torrid run.

No win in eight, and no goals in their last three, leaves the Blues dead last in the form table with only one point secured in their last six.

It is hardly the sort of form that Middlesbrough will fear, but such is the unpredictability of this league, no team can become complacent at any stage of the season.

That said, Middlesbrough have lost only one of their last 20 home games against Birmingham in all competitions - that loss came by way of a 2-1 defeat last season when Pep Clotet was in charge of the Blues.

Middlesbrough Championship form: LWWWLW
Middlesbrough form (all competitions): LLWLWL

Birmingham City Championship form: WLLLDL
Birmingham City form (all competitions): LLLDLL

Team News

Marcus Browne will not be available for selection after being stretched off in the Boro's 2-1 FA Cup loss to Brentford last weekend.

It is not yet known how long his dislocated kneecap will keep him sidelined for.

Meanwhile, Ashley Fletcher is nearing a return and has an outside shot of featuring in this one, though it is likely that this match has come a bit too soon for the former West Ham marksman.

Karanka may recall former Boro man Lukas Jutkiewicz to lead the Birmingham line after being dropped for Scott Hogan in the 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.

First-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge could also come back in between the sticks after sitting out the cup tie.

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Bettinelli; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair, Bola; Wing, Saville, Morsy, Johnson, Watmore; Assombalonga

Birmingham City possible starting lineup:
Etheridge; Colin, Roberts, Dean, Friend; Clayton, Sunjic; Sanchez, Toral, Bela; Jutkiewicz

We say: Middlesbrough 3-0 Birmingham City

Nearly all roads lead to a Boro win on Saturday, with the home side clearly in a good place when playing at the Riverside, and City seemingly struggling to keep goals out at one end and score at the other. We expect Boro to come away with a convincing win.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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1Norwich CityNorwich34227548252373
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11Stoke CityStoke341112113939045
12Bristol City34143173646-1045
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15Blackburn RoversBlackburn33117154639740
16Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest341010142833-540
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18Derby CountyDerby33108152537-1238
19Huddersfield TownHuddersfield34107173951-1237
20Coventry CityCoventry34811153146-1535
21Birmingham CityBirmingham34811152642-1635
22Rotherham UnitedRotherham3295183543-832
23Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds3397172440-1628
24Wycombe WanderersWycombe3358202355-3223
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Premier League Table
1Manchester CityMan City27205256173965
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd27149453322151
3Leicester CityLeicester27155746311550
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9Aston Villa251231038271139
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16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton26511102633-726
17Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2675142744-1726
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom2638152055-3517
20Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd2742211643-2714
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