Middlesbrough are enduring a tough period at present. A poor run of form has seen them fall away from the automatic promotion race and now they risk losing their play-off place too.
A 2-1 defeat against Preston North End at the Riverside Stadium last time out only made matters worse, especially as Boro squandered a lead for the second successive game.
Tony Pulis’ toiling side face another tough test on Saturday when they travel to Villa Park to take on fellow play-off hopefuls Aston Villa. Defeat could see Boro drop out of the top six.
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Middlesbrough will certainly have to be at their best to secure a result against Dean Smith’s talented group, and Pulis has gone to great lengths to highlight the threat that Jack Grealish poses his team.
Speaking in his recent press conference, as quoted by the club’s official website, the Boro boss said: “Villa’s going to be a tough game, they’ve got an exceptional squad and (Jack) Grealish is an exceptional player for them.”
Grealish is certainly in fine form and the 23-year-old No. 10 will still be on a high having netted the winning goal in the Second City derby recently. It is vital that Boro find a way to stop the attacking midfielder, as he has the capacity to decide the match should they fail to do so.
With these comments, Pulis’ squad can be under no illusions as to who their manager considers their opponents’ best player. Expect to see Boro set up to stop Grealish on Saturday, perhaps even glueing someone to the youngster in an old-fashioned man-marking job.