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Middlesbrough have a chance of arresting the slide against Stoke City this weekend

Friday 3rd March 2017
Middlesbrough travel down the A1(M) to the Bet365 Stadium to face Stoke City on Saturday afternoon, in a game that could either see home side Stoke move up a place in the table, or result in Boro dropping into the relegation zone.

The North-East club is currently enduring a difficult return to the top-flight and they come into this weekend's clash with the Potters off the back of a lengthy winless run. However, Stoke's own dip in form could see Middlesbrough in with a chance of a much-needed win to distance themselves from the bottom three.

Unhappy return to the Premier League

Aitor Karanka's Middlesbrough side are currently 17th in the Premier League table with 22 points from 26 games this season. A superior goal difference is all that is keeping Boro outside of the drop zone, and any one of the bottom three sides has the chance of catching them in the next round of games – 18th Crystal Palace 22 points, 19th Hull City 21 points, 20th Sunderland 19 points. And with Karanka's men picking up just four points in the Premier League since mid-December, their situation becomes desperate. The problems are obvious too.

  • No side have scored fewer goals than Middlesbrough (19) this season.

  • No side have averaged fewer shots per game (9.1) than Middlesbrough this season.

  • No side have won fewer games than Middlesbrough (4) this season.

  • No side have picked up fewer points when behind than Middlesbrough (2) this season.

  • No side have drawn more games than Middlesbrough (10) this season.

And while it's not been a memorable return to the Premier League, Middlesbrough's recent form in all competitions could give them the edge against a Stoke City outfit who have been far from convincing in recent weeks.

Improving Middlesbrough could capitalise on Stoke's poor form

Middlesbrough are dangerously close to the relegation zone, but the club have been picking up results of late. In all competitions, Boro have lost only three games in 2017, winning three and drawing four. In recent weeks, they drew with Everton and beat Oxford in the FA Cup, and will feel they could turn things around when looking at Stoke's own results.

Mark Hughes' City side haven't shown any resilience in the Premier League this season. The Potters have picked up just three points in the 13 games they've gone behind in this season, failing to win any, so the plan should be to try and breach the defence early. Stoke are sitting pretty in the top-half of the table in 2016/17, but they have looked human of late with just one win from their last five in the division.

In fact, the Midlands side are coming off the back of a 4-0 thrashing by Tottenham Hotspur which could see them fragile. Their defensive record throughout the season is something Boro might capitalise upon too given Stoke have kept just two clean sheets from mid-December. It's worth noting the reverse fixture between the two sides resulted in a score draw back in August so Middlesbrough will certainly fancy their chances of getting something at the Bet365 Stadium.
Crippy Cooke

Crippy is a long-suffering Aston Villa supporter and weekly football accumulator enthusiast.

Stealing a living, the balding 27-year-old boasts a wealth of writing experience - Telegraph, Independent, Huffington Post, Zoo Magazine, Daily Mail, ITV Football, MSN Sport, Yahoo Sport, London 24 and Bleacher Report.

Total articles: 330

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