Highflying Middlesbrough host title favourites Burnley at the Riverside Stadium this evening in what promises to be a tantalising Championship fixture on Teesside.
The clash pits two of the division’s brightest young coaches – Michael Carrick and Vincent Kompany – against each other in what should be a fascinating tactical duel in the north east.
Below, I’ve laid out my stats pack for the game which contains everything you need to pack plenty of savvy selections onto your bet builder coupons later on. Have a read of my detailed Stats Pack Guide if you need an extra helping hand.
Defender Matt Clarke is listed as Middlesbrough’s only injury concern at present and Michael Carrick has been able to select a largely settled team in recent weeks. Boro should line-up in their favoured 4-2-3-1 formation today with Hayden Hackney and Jonny Howson anchoring the midfield.
Leading scorer Chuba Akpom will be deployed at number ten behind striker Cameron Archer, while Aaron Ramsey and Marcus Forss should occupy the positions either side of Archer on the flanks. Zack Steffen, who is on loan from Man City, will continue between the sticks.
Vincent Kompany won’t be able to call upon the services of Darko Churlinov today, however, Burnley’s squad looks strong elsewhere especially following the recent return to the fold of Josh Brownhill and Taylor Harwood-Bellis.
Both of those returnees could start at the Riverside Stadium later on, while Michael Obafemi will hope to displace Ashley Barnes up front. Barnes is in the midst of a dry spell and his positions should really be under threat. The Clarets’ formation should be similar to their host’s today.
Middlesbrough’s transformation since Michael Carrick’s appointment in October has been remarkable and their run of 15 wins from their last 20 Championship fixtures is title-contending form. Boro have claimed 25 points from the last 27 on offer at the Riverside Stadium.
Only Burnley have scored more goals per 90 than Boro, though Middlesbrough (1.56 p/90) have been posting stronger xG for figures than the Clarets. Boro also have the edge in terms of corners won (6.23 p/90). The hosts are priced at 4/5 to win more corners than Burnley again today.
Burnley hold a commanding 11-point lead at the summit of the Championship and having lost just twice in 38 assignments so far, a swift return to the Premier League now feels like an inevitability. The Clarets are worthy runaway leaders, holding the division’s best goal-scoring and defensive records simultaneously.
With similar goals and xG against figures per 90, the Clarets’ superb record at the back is no fluke and Burnley’s possession play under Vincent Kompany has been drawing quite a few cards from frustrated opponents (2.34 p/90). Boro can be backed at 13/10 to collect more cards than Burnley this evening.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Villa loanee Aaron Ramsey (2.91), Chuba Akpom (2.83), Cameron Archer (2.38) and Marcus Forss (2.05) make up a fearsome front four for Middlesbrough, and each member of that quartet has been showing up well in the shots per 90 stakes this term.
Ramsey (1.36) and Akpom (1.36) have been the team’s deadliest duo in terms of accuracy however, and they both look like top value to have 1+ shots on target today at even money and 4/9 respectively.
Michael Obafemi’s numbers have been impressed off the bench, though the Irishman has yet to earn a start under Kompany at Burnley, so players like Nathan Tella, Benson Manuel and Anass Zaroury deserve more of your attention this evening.
Tella has been clocking a hefty 2.72 shots per 90 this season which is an excellent output from his position on the flank. The 23-year-old carries a price of 4/6 in the 1+ shots on target market later on. Benson Manuel, who had six shots against Middlesbrough in December, is 8/11 in the same market.
Player Goals and Assists
Chuba Akpom’s renaissance under Michael Carrick has been one of the Championship’s most compelling plotlines this season and the 27-year-old is way out on his own as the club’s leading scorer with a searing 25 goals.
Akpom has chipped in with ten goal contributions in his last eight runouts alone and the attacker is a generous 9/5 to find the net anytime again today. Elsewhere, Cameron Archer could be an option to consider. The 21-year-old has lodged five goal contributions in three starts and he is 6/4 to either score or assist against Burnley.
Ashley Barnes has gone six games without a goal, so the veteran forward is best ignored in the markets today, leaving Nathan Tella as the outstanding candidate for your bet builder instead. Leading marksman Tella has notched five of the Clarets’ last six goals and the 23-year-old is keenly priced at 6/4 in the score/assist market today.
Benson Manuel enjoyed a productive afternoon when Burnley beat Middlesbrough in December, netting a brace in a 3-1 triumph at Turf Moor, and the winger is 6/4 to either score or create a goal again in this evening’s rematch.
Middlesbrough are one of the Championship’s top teams for average possession this season, however, like every other side in the division, their figures pale in comparison to Burnley’s and the Clarets controlled just under 60% of the ball when they beat Boro in December.
Defender Darragh Lenihan (70.4) and midfielder Hayden Hackney (64.8) have been Middlesbrough’s best individual distributors this term, while fullback Tommy Smith (62.1) has also seen plenty of action. However, the 50+ passes range would suit all three better in the markets today against a possession-hungry Clarets outfit.
Burnley have been posting league-best possession figures this season with an average of 63.70% per game and the Clarets will expect to have the ball on a string for large swathes of this evening’s test at the Riverside Stadium.
Jordan Beyer (82.2), Harwood-Bellis (81.2) and Josh Cullen (69.7) form a ball-rotation axis in Burnley’s defensive third and all three players are worth leaning on in the passing markets today. All three topped 80 passes when the Clarets toppled Boro in December.
Middlesbrough Cards and Fouls
Boro right-back Tommy Smith has been racking up the fouls this season (1.15 p/90) and at 8/15 to commit one or more indiscretions against some tricky Burnley wingers this evening, the 30-year-old represents excellent value.
Middlesbrough’s hard-hitting midfield duo of Jonny Howson (nine cards) and Hayden Hackney (1.96 fouls per/90) know how to mix it up and they should bring plenty of aggression to proceedings today. Howson is 5/2 to pick up his tenth card of the campaign, while Hackney is of interest at 4/9 to commit 2+ fouls.
Anass Zoury’s technical gifts on the left flank should thoroughly test the timing of Tommy Smith’s tackles later on and that head-to-head has the potential to produce fouls. In midfield, there is room for plenty of room for numerous combative clashes.
Josh Cullen (fouled 1.55 times p/90) and Jack Cork (0.7) are a tigerish duo for Burnley in the middle, though Hayden Hackney and Jonny Howson are steely enough to match them today. That quartet should be at the heart of a series of scuffles this evening.
Match-Ups to watch
Tommy Smith vs Anass Zoury
Jonny Howson vs Josh Cullen
Hayden Hackney vs Josh Brownhill
Burnley Cards and Fouls
Josh Brownhill’s return from injury is a major boost for Burnley and the 27-year-old is one of his team’s key disruptors when the Clarets don’t have the ball. Brownhill has been averaging 1.74 fouls per 90 this term and he is 4/7 to sin at least twice later on.
His foil in midfield, Josh Cullen, has a comparable mean streak, and the Republic of Ireland international looks like a sure thing a 4/11 in the 1+ fouls arena. Elsewhere, Connor Roberts should have work to get through at right back and the Welshman is backable at 4/9 in the same market as Cullen.
I’ve already picked out Hadyen Hackney’s tussle with Josh Brownhill as a fertile head-to-head for fouls and cards and the potential for action in both directions feels high. Hackney has been fouled 1.16 times per 90 this season and that average should be maintained later on.
Chuba Akpom (fouled 2.45 times per 90) is Boro’s most dangerous operator in the final third, so expect Josh Cullen to put the squeeze on him whenever he can. Aaron Ramsey’s wing wizardry and acceleration could make Connor Roberts uncomfortable down Middlesbrough’s left. Ramsey has been fouled 1.15 times per 90 this season and Roberts could aim some more punishment in his direction today.
Match-Ups to watch
Josh Brownhill vs Hayden Hackney
Josh Cullen vs Chuba Akpom
Connor Roberts vs Aaron Ramsey