Last Updated: 10/08/18 11:20am
Jordan Hugill could be handed a debut for home-town club Middlesbrough in Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship clash with Birmingham.
The 26-year-old striker completed a season-long loan move from West Ham to the Riverside Stadium earlier this week as manager Tony Pulis continued to reshape his squad.
Winger Adama Traore has departed in a big-money move to Wolves with Boro still working on a loan deal to bring Everton midfielder Muhamed Besic – they are also maintaining an interest in his team-mate Yannick Bolasie – back to Teesside after failing to secure a permanent transfer on deadline day.
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Pulis, who saw his side beat Sheffield United 3-0 on Tuesday evening after staging a rousing fightback to draw 2-2 at Millwall three days earlier, will still be without injured duo Daniel Ayala and Rudy Gestede.
Birmingham boss Garry Monk could have Craig and Gary Gardner among his ranks for the trip north. Midfielder Gary, who spent last season on loan at Barnsley, completed a season-long loan move from Aston Villa on Thursday to join up with his older brother and help plug the gap left by David Davis’ long-term ankle injury.
Gardner joins fellow new recruits Lee Camp, who has signed a two-year deal after leaving Cardiff, and loan additions Connor Mahoney and Omar Bogle in the squad. City head for the Riverside having emerged from their opening-day encounter with Norwich with just a point despite twice taking the lead.
Middlesbrough are unbeaten in eight league games against the Blues (W4 D4) since losing 1-0 in March 2013.
Birmingham’s only win in their last 18 visits to Middlesbrough in all competitions is a 1-0 victory in 2013 (D6 L11) – they have failed to find the net in each of their last three visits to the Riverside.
Middlesbrough have won eight of their last nine Championship home games (excluding play-offs), losing only against last season’s champions Wolves in March (1-2).
Birmingham forward Lukas Jutkiewicz has been involved in six goals in his last eight Championship matches (4 goals, 2 assists) and has scored in two of his last three Championship starts against Middlesbrough (two goals).
Tony Pulis has never lost against Garry Monk in three managerial meetings (W2 D1), all with different clubs (Crystal Palace, West Brom and Middlesbrough).
Birmingham manager Garry Monk took charge of 26 matches for Middlesbrough last season – in his two matches against sides he’s formerly managed, he’s lost them both (against Leeds in November 2017 and Middlesbrough in March 2018).
Losing Adama Traore is a massive blow for Middlesbrough and he’ll be a tough man for anyone to replace. That being said, they got a great victory against Sheffield United in midweek without him.
Birmingham have had a tough couple of years and Garry Monk won’t have wanted to return to the Riverside Stadium so quickly. I can’t see them getting anything from this one. Home win.
David Prutton predicts: 2-0 (11/2 with Sky Bet)