The Villa Appetiser: Middlesbrough v Aston Villa 2018

Well… we don’t think anyone could have predicted that.

After a great derby day win, Forest on Wednesday looked like another tough game. It ending up being one of the most memorable Villa matches of recent years, as well as being the first-ever 5-5 draw in Villa Park’s 122-year history.

It will be the first time Middlesbrough and Villa have met since last season’s Championship play-off semi-final. We played them five times last season and only lost once.

Will Villa continue our decent record against them this weekend?

Surely it won’t be as crazy as Wednesday…

Form

MIDDLESBROUGH

3rd in the league table with the 6th best home record.

Last five matches at home: W 1, D 3, L 1  

VILLA

8th in the league table with the 16th best away record.

Last five matches away: W 1, D 1, L 3  

Smith on defending

“I certainly wouldn’t want to be a defender playing against us at the moment.

“There is certainly a lot of attacking intent from ourselves and we will hope to shut up shop the other side.

“We will be working on that and hopefully getting the performance we need.

“There is not a lot of fixing that needs doing. I know we have conceded five goals at home and I can look stupid saying that.

“But as I’ve said before, we have gone to Derby and kept a clean sheet. We have kept clean sheets against Swansea and Bolton.

“I think my first five games we conceded only three goals. All of a sudden, there is a local derby and you never know what you are going to get. Wednesday night was a bit of a cuckoo game.”

and on Pulis

“I have met him a few times and he is a really nice guy. Very down to earth and humble.

“He is very good at what he does. We drew the match 1-1 with Boro at Brentford last season and they were a really good test.

“It is great to pit your wits against these coaches who have amassed so many games.”

Memory Match

24th Nov 2007 – Middlesbrough 0 – 3 Villa 

Goals from Carew, Mellberg and Agbonlahor contributed to a convincing win in this Premier League encounter over a decade ago.

Player to Watch

Jonny Howson – the midfielder’s four assists have earned Boro seven points in league this season – only West Brom’s Matt Phillips has earned his team more (with eight points from five assists).

Embed from Getty Images

Middlesbrough have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine home matches

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

Nine goals in two matches. You can’t fault the attacking quality.

At the other end of the pitch, however, it’s pretty worrying, especially ahead of a trip to high-flying Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine home matches – and are undefeated in the last seven matches.

After an accumulation of yellow cards, derby hero Hutton will miss Saturday’s game, while Adomah will also miss the match. For the visitors, former Villa man Gestede will sit out the match through injury.

In terms of rotation, there’s not too much scope for Smith, though El Ghazi impressed in mid-week with his goal.

Villa had a good record against Saturday’s opponents last season under Bruce, but it’s been a bit different for Smith.

The current Villa boss has never beaten Middlesbrough as a manager, drawing two, losing the other two. Interestingly, he’s faced a different manager each time; Mowbray, Karanka, Monk, and Pulis…

“There is certainly a lot of attacking intent from ourselves and we will hope to shut up shop the other side. We will be working on that and hopefully getting the performance we need” – smith on villa

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

We might have defensive issues, but you can’t deny the excitement when it comes to our attacking play.

Bolasie did well during his first Villa start on Wednesday, and funnily enough he almost signed for Pulis in the summer.

Meanwhile Tammy Abraham continues his incredible scoring streak. His four goals on Wednesday made him the first Villa player to achieve this feat since David Platt (against Ipswich in 1988).

In the five meetings between the two teams last season, Villa kept four clean sheets – although if Wednesday is anything to go by, that might not happen this weekend.

Still, it’s an encouraging statistic, and there are lots for Villa to take heart from.

Pulis has collected just one win in his last seven matches against Villa in all competitions – drawing twice, and losing four times.

If our defensive frailty continues, we do at least have impressive comeback powers – we’ve recovered 14 points from losing positions this season, the most in the league.

It’s a tough game in prospect, there’s no denying that. But with our attacking options, we’ll always have a chance in games – we have of course scored at least three in our last three games.

Historically things look good too, and we’ve won five of our last six away games against Middlesbrough in all competitions.

We did well in our last away game against promotion contenders, so hopefully we can get a good result this weekend.

At least, despite Pulis being in the opposing dugout, it should still be entertaining.

UTV.

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